THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE EPHESIANS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The headings (Eph 1:1, and Eph 3:1, show that this Epistle claims to be that of Paul. This claim is confirmed by the testimonies of Irenæus, [Against Heresies, 5.2,3; 1.8,5]; Clement of Alexandria, [Miscellanies, 4, P. 65, and The Instructor, 1.8]; Origen, [Against Celsus, 4,211]. It is quoted by Valentinus, A.D. 120, namely, Eph 3:14-18, as we know from Hippolytus [The Refutation of All Heresies, p. 193]. Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 12], testifies to its canonicity. So Tertullian [Against Marcion, 5,17]. Ignatius [Epistle to the Ephesians, 12], which alludes to the frequent and affectionate mention made by Paul of the Christian state, privileges, and persons of the Ephesians in his Epistle.
Two theories, besides the ordinary one, have been held on the question, to whom the Epistle is addressed. Grotius, after the heretic Marcion, maintains that it was addressed to the Church at Laodicea, and that it is the Epistle to which Paul refers in Col 4:16. But the Epistle to the Colossians was probably written before that to the Ephesians, as appears from the parallel passages in Ephesians bearing marks of being expanded from those in Colossians; and Marcion seems to have drawn his notion, as to our Epistle, from Paul’s allusion (Col 4:16) to an Epistle addressed by him to the Laodiceans. Origen and Clement of Alexandria, and even Tertullian, who refers to Marcion, give no sanction to his notion. No single manuscript contains the heading, “to the saints that are at Laodicea.” The very resemblance of the Epistle to the Ephesians, to that to the Colossians, is against the theory; for if the former were really the one addressed to Laodicea (Col 4:16), Paul would not have deemed it necessary that the churches of Colosse and Laodicea should interchange Epistles. The greetings, moreover (Col 4:15), which he sends through the Colossians to the Laodiceans, are quite incompatible with the idea that Paul wrote an Epistle to the Laodiceans at the same time, and by the same bearer, Tychicus (the bearer of our Epistle to the Ephesians, as well as of that to Colosse, Eph 6:21; Col 4:7); for who, under such circumstances, would not send the greetings directly in the letter to the party saluted? The letter to Laodicea was evidently written some time before that to Colosse, Archbishop Usher has advanced the second theory: That it was an encyclical letter headed, as in Manuscript B., “to the saints that are … and to the faithful,” the name of each Church being inserted in the copy sent to it; and that its being sent to Ephesus first, occasioned its being entitled, as now, the Epistle to the Ephesians. Alford makes the following objections to this theory: (1) It is at variance with the spirit of the Epistle, which is clearly addressed to one set of persons throughout, co-existing in one place, and as one body, and under the same circumstances. (2) The improbability that the apostle, who in two of his Epistles (Second Corinthians and Galatians) has so plainly specified their encyclical character, should have here omitted such specification. (3) The still greater improbability that he should have, as on this hypothesis must be assumed, written a circular Epistle to a district, of which Ephesus was the commercial capital, addressed to various churches within that district, yet from its very contents (as by the opponents’ hypothesis) not admitting of application to the Church of that metropolis, in which he had spent so long a time, and to which he was so affectionately bound. (4) The inconsistency of this hypothesis with the address of the Epistle, and the universal testimony of the ancient Church. The absence of personal greetings is not an argument for either of the two theories; for similarly there are none in Galatians, Philippians, First and Second Thessalonians, First Timothy. The better he knows the parties addressed, and the more general and solemn the subject, the less he seems to give of these individual notices. Writing, as he does in this Epistle, on the constitution and prospects of Christ’s universal Church, he refers the Ephesians, as to personal matters, to the bearer of the Epistle, Tychicus (Eph 6:21, 22). As to the omission of “which are at Ephesus” (Eph 1:1), in Manuscript B., so “in Rome” (Ro 1:7) is omitted in some old manuscripts: it was probably done by churches among whom it was read, in order to generalize the reference of its contents, and especially where the subject of the Epistle is catholic. The words are found in the margin of Manuscript B, from a first hand; and are found in all the oldest manuscripts and versions.
Paul’s first visit to Ephesus (on the seacoast of Lydia, near the river Cayster) is related in Ac 18:19-21. The work, begun by his disputations with the Jews in his short visit, was carried on by Apollos (Ac 18:24-26), and Aquila and Priscilla (Ac 18:26). At his second visit, after his journey to Jerusalem, and thence to the east regions of Asia Minor, he remained at Ephesus “three years” (Ac 19:10, the “two years” in which verse are only part of the time, and Ac 20:31); so that the founding and rearing of this Church occupied an unusually large portion of the apostle’s time and care; whence his language in this Epistle shows a warmth of feeling, and a free outpouring of thought, and a union in spiritual privileges and hope between him and them (Eph 1:3, &c.), such as are natural from one so long and so intimately associated with those whom he addresses. On his last journey to Jerusalem, he sailed by Ephesus and summoned the elders of the Ephesian Church to meet him at Miletus, where he delivered his remarkable farewell charge (Ac 20:18-35).
This Epistle was addressed to the Ephesians during the early part of his imprisonment at Rome, immediately after that to the Colossians, to which it bears a close resemblance in many passages, the apostle having in his mind generally the same great truths in writing both. It is an undesigned proof of genuineness that the two Epistles, written about the same date, and under the same circumstances, bear a closer mutual resemblance than those written at distant dates and on different occasions. Compare Eph 1:7 with Col 1:14; Eph 1:10 with Col 1:20; Eph 3:2 with Col 1:25; Eph 5:19 with Col 3:16; Eph 6:22 with Col 4:8; Eph 1:19; 2:5 with Col 2:12, 13; Eph 4:2-4 with Col 3:12-15; Eph 4:16 with Col 2:19; Eph 4:32 with Col 3:13; Eph 4:22-24 with Col 3:9, 10; Eph 5:6-8 with Col 3:6-8; Eph 5:15, 16 with Col 4:5; Eph 6:19, 20 with Col 4:3, 4; Eph 5:22-33; 6:1-9 with Col 3:18; Eph 4:24, 25 with Col 3:9; Eph 5:20-22 with Col 3:17, 18. Tychicus and Onesimus were being sent to Colosse, the former bearing the two Epistles to the two churches respectively, the latter furnished with a letter of recommendation to Philemon, his former master, residing at Colosse. The date was probably about four years after his parting with the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Ac 20:6-38), about A.D. 62, before his imprisonment had become of the more severe kind, which appears in his Epistle to the Philippians. From Eph 6:19, 20 it is plain he had at the time, though a prisoner, some degree of freedom in preaching, which accords with Ac 28:23, 30, 31, where he is represented as receiving at his lodgings all inquirers. His imprisonment began in February A.D. 61 and lasted “two whole years” (Ac 28:30) at least, and perhaps longer.
The Church of Ephesus was made up of converts partly from the Jews and partly from the Gentiles (Ac 19:8-10). Accordingly, the Epistle so addresses a Church constituted (Eph 2:14-22). Ephesus was famed for its idol temple of Artemis or Diana, which, after its having been burnt down by Herostratus on the night that Alexander the Great was born (355 B.C.), was rebuilt at enormous cost and was one of the wonders of the world. Hence, perhaps, have arisen his images in this Epistle drawn from a beautiful temple: the Church being in true inner beauty that which the temple of the idol tried to realize in outward show (Eph 2:19-22). The Epistle (Eph 4:17; 5:1-13) implies the profligacy for which the Ephesian heathen were notorious. Many of the same expressions occur in the Epistle as in Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders. Compare Eph 1:6, 7; 2:7, as to “grace,” with Ac 20:24, 32: this may well be called “the Epistle of the grace of God” [Alford]. Also, as to his “bonds,” Eph 3:1, and 4:1 with Ac 20:22, 23. Also Eph 1:11, as to “the counsel of God,” with Ac 20:27. Also Eph 1:14, as to “the redemption of the purchased possession,” with Ac 20:28. Also Eph 1:14, 18; 2:20; 5:5, as to “building up” the “inheritance,” with Ac 20:32.
The object of the Epistle is “to set forth the ground, the course, and the aim and end of THE Church of the Faithful in Christ. He speaks to the Ephesians as a type or sample of the Church universal” [Alford]. Hence, “the Church” throughout the Epistle is spoken of in the singular, not in the plural, “churches.” The Church’s foundation, its course, and its end, are his theme alike in the larger and smaller divisions of the whole Epistle. “Everywhere the foundation of the Church is in the will of the Father; the course of the Church is by the satisfaction of the Son; the end of the Church is the life in the Holy Spirit” [Alford]. Compare respectively Eph 1:11; 2:5; 3:16. This having been laid down as a matter of doctrine (this part closing with a sublime doxology, Eph 3:14-21), is then made the ground of practical exhortations. In these latter also (from Eph 4:1, onward), the same threefold division prevails, for the Church is represented as founded on the counsel of “God the Father, who is above all, through all, and in all,” reared by the “one Lord,” Jesus Christ, through the “one Spirit” (Eph 4:4-6, &c.), who give their respective graces to the several members. These last are therefore to exercise all these graces in the several relations of life, as husbands, wives, servants, children, &c. The conclusion is that we must put on “the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:13).
The sublimity of the STYLE and LANGUAGE corresponds to the sublimity of the subjects and exceeds almost that of any part of his Epistles. It is appropriate that those to whom he so wrote were Christians long grounded in the faith. The very sublimity is the cause of the difficulty of the style, and of the presence of peculiar expressions occurring, not found elsewhere.
Eph 1:1-23. Inscription: Origin of the Church in the Father’s Eternal Counsel, and the Son’s Bloodshedding: The Sealing of It by the Spirit. Thanksgiving and Prayer that They May Fully Know God’s Gracious Power in Christ towards the Saints.
1. by–rather, “through the will of God”: called to the apostleship through that same “will” which originated the Church (Eph 1:5, 9, 11; compare Ga 1:4).
which are at Ephesus–(See Introduction.)
to the saints … and to the faithful–The same persons are referred to by both designations, as the Greek proves: “to those who are saints, and faithful in Christ Jesus.” The sanctification by God is here put before man’s faith. The twofold aspect of salvation is thus presented, God’s grace in the first instance sanctifying us, (that is, setting us apart in His eternal purposes as holy unto Himself); and our faith, by God’s gift, laying hold of salvation (2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2).
2. (Ro 1:7; 1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2; Ga 1:3).
3. The doxologies in almost all the Epistles imply the real sense of grace experienced by the writers and their readers (1Pe 1:3). Eph 1:3-14 sets forth summarily the Gospel of the grace of God: the Father’s work of love, Eph 1:3 (choosing us to holiness, Eph 1:4; to sonship, Eph 1:5; to acceptance, Eph 1:6): the Son’s, Eph 1:7 (redemption, Eph 1:7; knowledge of the mystery of His will, Eph 1:9; an inheritance, Eph 1:11); the Holy Spirit’s, Eph 1:13 (sealing, Eph 1:13; giving an earnest of the inheritance, Eph 1:14).
the God and Father of … Christ–and so the God and Father of us who are in Him (Joh 20:17). God is “the God” of the man Jesus, and “the Father” of the Divine Word. The Greek is, “Blessed us,” not “hath blessed us”; referring to the past original counsel of God. As in creation (Ge 1:22) so in redemption (Ge 12:3; Mt 5:3-11; 25:34) God “blesses” His children; and that not in mere words, but in acts.
blessings–Greek, “blessing.” “All,” that is, “every possible blessing for time and eternity, which the Spirit has to bestow” (so “spiritual” means; not “spiritual,” as the term is now used, as opposed to bodily).
in heavenly places–a phrase five times found in this Epistle, and not elsewhere (Eph 1:20; Eph 2:6; 3:10; 6:12); Greek, “in the heavenly places.” Christ’s ascension is the means of introducing us into the heavenly places, which by our sin were barred against us. Compare the change made by Christ (Col 1:20; Eph 1:20). While Christ in the flesh was in the form of a servant, God’s people could not realize fully their heavenly privileges as sons. Now “our citizenship (Greek) is in heaven” (Php 3:20), where our High Priest is ever “blessing” us. Our “treasures” are there (Mt 6:20, 21); our aims and affections (Col 3:1, 2); our hope (Col 1:5; Tit 2:13); our inheritance (1Pe 1:4). The gift of the Spirit itself, the source of the “spiritual blessing,” is by virtue of Jesus having ascended thither (Eph 4:8).
in Christ–the center and source of all blessing to us.
4. hath chosen us–Greek, “chose us out for Himself” (namely, out of the world, Ga 1:4): referring to His original choice, spoken of as past.
in him–The repetition of the idea, “in Christ” (Eph 1:3), implies the paramount importance of the truth that it is in Him, and by virtue of union to Him, the Second Adam, the Restorer ordained for us from everlasting, the Head of redeemed humanity, believers have all their blessings (Eph 3:11).
before the foundation of the world–This assumes the eternity of the Son of God (Joh 17:5, 24), as of the election of believers in Him (2Ti 1:9; 2Th 2:13).
that we should be holy–positively (De 14:2).
without blame–negatively (Eph 5:27; 1Th 3:13).
before him–It is to Him the believer looks, walking as in His presence, before whom he looks to be accepted in the judgment (Col 1:22; compare Re 7:15).
in love–joined by Bengel and others with Eph 1:5, “in love having predestinated us,” &c. But English Version is better. The words qualify the whole clause, “that we should be holy … before Him.” Love, lost to man by the fall, but restored by redemption, is the root and fruit and sum of all holiness (Eph 5:2; 1Th 3:12, 13).
5. predestinated–more special in respect to the end and precise means, than “chosen” or elected. We are “chosen” out of the rest of the world; “predestinated” to all things that secure the inheritance for us (Eph 1:11; Ro 8:29). “Foreordained.”
by Jesus–Greek, “through Jesus.”
to himself–the Father (Col 1:20). Alford explains, “adoption … into Himself,” that is, so that we should be partakers of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4). Lachmann reads, “unto Him.” The context favors the explanation of Calvin: God has regard to Himself and the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6, 12, 14) as His ultimate end. He had one only-begotten Son, and He was pleased for His own glory, to choose out of a lost world many to become His adopted sons. Translate, “unto Himself.”
the good pleasure of his will–So the Greek (Mt 11:26; Lu 10:21). We cannot go beyond “the good pleasure of His will” in searching into the causes of our salvation, or of any of His works (Eph 1:9). (Job 33:13.) Why needest thou philosophize about an imaginary world of optimism? Thy concern is to take heed that thou be not bad. There was nothing in us which deserved His love (Eph 1:1, 9, 11) [Bengel].
6. (Eph 1:7, 17, 18). The end aimed at (Ps 50:23), that is, that the glory of His grace may be praised by all His creatures, men and angels.
wherein–Some of the oldest manuscripts read, “which.” Then translate, “which He graciously bestowed on us.” But English Version is supported by good manuscripts and the oldest versions.
us accepted–a kindred Greek word to “grace”: charitos, echaritosen: translate, “graciously accepted”; “made us subjects of His grace”; “embraced us in the arms of His grace” (Ro 3:24; 5:15).
in the beloved–pre-eminently so called (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Joh 3:35; Col 1:13). Greek, “Son of His love.” It is only “IN His Beloved” that He loves us (Eph 1:3; 1Jo 4:9, 10).
7. In whom–“the Beloved” (Eph 1:6; Ro 3:24).
we have–as a present possession.
redemption–Greek, “our (literally, ‘the’) redemption”; THE redemption which is the grand subject of all revelation, and especially of the New Testament (Ro 3:24), namely, from the power, guilt, and penal consequences of sin (Mt 1:21). If a man were unable to redeem himself from being a bond-servant, his kinsman might redeem him (Le 25:48). Hence, antitypically the Son of God became the Son of man, that as our kinsman He might redeem us (Mt 20:28). Another “redemption” follows, namely, that “of the purchased possession” hereafter (Eph 1:14).
through his blood–(Eph 2:13); as the instrument; the propitiation, that is, the consideration (devised by His own love) for which He, who was justly angry (Isa 12:1), becomes propitious to us; the expiation, the price paid to divine justice for our sin (Ac 20:28; Ro 3:25; 1Co 6:20; Col 1:20; 1Pe 1:18, 19).
the forgiveness of sins–Greek, “the remission of our transgressions”: not merely “pretermission,” as the Greek (Ro 3:25) ought to be translated. This “remission,” being the explanation of “redemption,” includes not only deliverance from sin’s penalty, but from its pollution and enslaving power, negatively; and the reconciliation of an offended God, and a satisfaction unto a just God, positively.
riches of his grace–(Eph 2:7); “the exceeding riches of His grace.” Compare Eph 1:18; Eph 3:16, “according to the riches of His glory”: so that “grace” is His “glory.”
8. Rather, “which He made to abound towards us.”
all wisdom and prudence–“wisdom” in devising the plan of redeeming mankind; “prudence” in executing it by the means, and in making all the necessary arrangements of Providence for that purpose. Paul attributes to the Gospel of God’s grace “all” possible “wisdom and prudence,” in opposition to the boasts of wisdom and prudence which the unbelieving Jews and heathen philosophers and false apostles arrogated for their teachings. Christ crucified, though esteemed “foolishness” by the world, is “the wisdom of God” (1Co 1:18-30). Compare Eph 3:10, “the manifold wisdom of God.”
9. “He hath abounded,” or “made (grace) to abound toward us” (Eph 1:8), in that He made known to us, namely, experimentally, in our hearts.
the mystery–God’s purpose of redemption hidden heretofore in His counsels, but now revealed (Eph 6:19; Ro 16:25; Col 1:26, 27). This “mystery” is not like the heathen mysteries, which were imparted only to the initiated few. All Christians are the initiated. Only unbelievers are the uninitiated.
according to his good pleasure–showing the cause why “He hath made known to us the mystery,” namely, His own loving “good pleasure” toward us; also the time and manner of His doing so, are according to His good pleasure.
in himself–God the Father. Bengel takes it, “in Him,” that is, Christ, as in Eph 1:3, 4. But the proper name, “in Christ,” Eph 1:10, immediately after, is inconsistent with His being here meant by the pronoun.
10. Translate, “Unto the dispensation of the fulness of the times,” that is, “which He purposed in Himself” (Eph 1:9) with a view to the economy of (the gracious administration belonging to) the fulness of the times (Greek, “fit times,” “seasons”). More comprehensive than “the fulness of the time” (Ga 4:4). The whole of the Gospel times (plural) is meant, with the benefits to the Church dispensed in them severally and successively. Compare “the ages to come” (Eph 2:7). “The ends of the ages” (Greek, 1Co 10:11); “the times (same Greek as here, ‘the seasons,’ or ‘fitly appointed times’) of the Gentiles” (Lu 21:24); “the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power” (Ac 1:7); “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the prophets since the world began” (Ac 3:20, 21). The coming of Jesus at the first advent, “in the fulness of time,” was one of these “times.” The descent of the Holy Ghost, “when Pentecost was fully come” (Ac 2:1), was another. The testimony given by the apostles to Him “in due time” (“in its own seasons,” Greek) (1Ti 2:6) was another. The conversion of the Jews “when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” the second coming of Christ, the “restitution of all things,” the millennial kingdom, the new heaven and earth, shall be severally instances of “the dispensation of the fulness of the times,” that is, “the dispensation of” the Gospel events and benefits belonging to their respective “times,” when severally filled up or completed. God the Father, according to His own good pleasure and purpose, is the Dispenser both of the Gospel benefits and of their several fitting times (Ac 1:7).
gather together in one–Greek, “sum up under one head”; “recapitulate.” The “good pleasure which He purposed,” was “to sum up all things (Greek, ‘THE whole range of things’) in Christ (Greek, ‘the Christ,’ that is, His Christ)” [Alford]. God’s purpose is to sum up the whole creation in Christ, the Head of angels, with whom He is linked by His invisible nature, and of men with whom He is linked by His humanity; of Jews and Gentiles; of the living and the dead (Eph 3:15); of animate and inanimate creation. Sin has disarranged the creature’s relation of subordination to God. God means to gather up all together in Christ; or as Col 1:20 says, “By Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether things in earth or things in heaven.” Alford well says, “The Church of which the apostle here mainly treats, is subordinated to Him in the highest degree of conscious and joyful union; those who are not His spiritually, in mere subjugation, yet consciously; the inferior tribes of creation unconsciously; but objectively, all are summed up in Him.”
11. In whom–by virtue of union to whom.
obtained an inheritance–literally, “We were made to have an inheritance” [Wahl]. Compare Eph 1:18, “His inheritance in the saints”: as His inheritance is there said to be in them, so theirs is here said to be in Him (Ac 26:18). However, Eph 1:12, “That we should BE TO … His glory” (not “that we should have”), favors the translation of Bengel, Ellicott, and others, “We were made an inheritance.” So the literal Israel (De 4:20; 9:29; 32:9). “Also” does not mean “we also,” nor as English Version, “in whom also”; but, besides His having “made known to us His will,” we were also “made His inheritance,” or “we have also obtained an inheritance.”
predestinated–(Eph 1:5). The foreordination of Israel, as the elect nation, answers to that of the spiritual Israelites, believers, to an eternal inheritance, which is the thing meant here. The “we” here and in Eph 1:12, means Jewish believers (whence the reference to the election of Israel nationally arises), as contrasted with “you” (Eph 1:13) Gentile believers.
purpose–repeated from “purposed” (Eph 1:9; Eph 3:11). The Church existed in the mind of God eternally, before it existed in creation.
counsel of his … will–(Eph 1:5), “the good pleasure of His will.” Not arbitrary caprice, but infinite wisdom (“counsel”) joined with sovereign will. Compare his address to the same Ephesians in Ac 20:27, “All the counsel of God” (Isa 28:29). Alike in the natural and spiritual creations, God is not an agent constrained by necessity. “Wheresoever counsel is, there is election, or else it is vain; where a will, there must be freedom, or else it is weak” [Pearson].
12. (Eph 1:6, 14).
who first trusted in Christ–rather (we Jewish Christians), “who have before hoped in the Christ”: who before the Christ came, looked forward to His coming, waiting for the consolation of Israel. Compare Ac 26:6, 7, “I am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.” Ac 28:20, “the hope of Israel” [Alford]. Compare Eph 1:18; 2:12; 4:4.
13. In whom ye also–Ye Gentiles. Supply as English Version, “trusted,” from Eph 1:12; or “are.” The priority of us Jews does not exclude you Gentiles from sharing in Christ (compare Ac 13:46).
the word of truth–the instrument of sanctification, and of the new birth (Joh 17:17; 2Ti 2:15; Jas 1:18). Compare Col 1:5, where also, as here, it is connected with “hope.” Also Eph 4:21.
sealed–as God’s confirmed children, by the Holy Spirit as the seal (Ac 19:1-6; Ro 8:16, 23; 1Jo 3:24; see on 2Co 1:22). A seal impressed on a document gives undoubted validity to the contract in it (Joh 3:33; 6:27; compare 2Co 3:3). So the sense of “the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost” (Ro 5:5), and the sense of adoption given through the Spirit at regeneration (Ro 8:15, 16), assure believers of God’s good will to them. The Spirit, like a seal, impresses on the soul at regeneration the image of our Father. The “sealing” by the Holy Spirit is spoken of as past once for all. The witnessing to our hearts that we are the children of God, and heirs (Eph 1:11), is the Spirit’s present testimony, the “earnest of the (coming) inheritance” (Ro 8:16-18).
that Holy Spirit of promise–rather, as the Greek, “The Spirit of promise, even the Holy Spirit”: The Spirit promised both in the Old and New Testaments (Joe 2:28; Zec 12:10; Joh 7:38, 39). “The word” promised the Holy Spirit. Those who “believed the word of truth” were sealed by the Spirit accordingly.
14. earnest–the first instalment paid as a pledge that the rest will follow (Ro 8:23; 2Co 1:22).
until–rather, “Unto the redemption,” &c.; joined thus, “ye were sealed (Eph 1:13) unto,” that is, for the purpose of and against, the accomplishment of “the redemption,” namely, not the redemption in its first stage, made by the blood of Christ, which secures our title, but, in its final completion, when the actual possession shall be ours, the full “redemption of the body” (Ro 8:23), as well as of the soul, from every infirmity (Eph 4:30). The deliverance of the creature (the body, and the whole visible creation) from the bondage of corruption, and from the usurping prince of this world, into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Ro 8:21-23; 2Pe 3:13).
of the purchased possession–God’s people purchased (“acquired,” Greek) as His peculiar (Greek) possession by the blood of Christ (Ac 20:28). We value highly that which we pay a high price for; so God, His Church (Eph 5:25, 26; 1Pe 1:18; 2:9; “my special treasure,” Mal 3:17, Margin).
15. Wherefore–because ye are in Christ and sealed by His Spirit (Eph 1:13, 14).
I also–on my part, in return for God’s so great benefits to you.
after I heard–ever since I have heard. Not implying that he had only heard of their conversion: an erroneous argument used by some against the address of this Epistle to the Ephesians (see on Eph 1:1); but referring to the report he had heard since he was with them, as to their Christian graces. So in the case of Philemon, his “beloved fellow laborer” (Phm 1), he uses the same words (Phm 4, 5).
your faith–rather, as Greek, “the faith among you,” that is, which many (not all) of you have.
love unto all the saints–of whatever name, simply because they are saints. A distinguishing characteristic of true Christianity (Eph 6:24). “Faith and love he often joins together. A wondrous pair” [Chrysostom]. Hope is added, Eph 1:18.
16. (Col 1:9).
of you–omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Then the translation may be as English Version still, or as Alford, “making mention of them” (your “faith and love”).
17. A fit prayer for all Christians.
the God of our Lord Jesus–appropriate title here; as in Eph 1:20-22 he treats of God’s raising Jesus to be Head over all things to the Church. Jesus Himself called the Father “My God” (Mt 27:46).
the Father of glory–(Compare Ac 7:2). The Father of that infinite glory which shines in the face of Christ, who is “the glory” (the true Shekinah); through whom also “the glory of the inheritance” (Eph 1:18) shall be ours (Joh 17:24; 2Co 3:7-4:6).
the spirit of wisdom–whose attribute is infinite wisdom and who works wisdom in believers (Isa 11:2).
and revelation–whose function it is to reveal to believers spiritual mysteries (Joh 16:14, 15; 1Co 2:10).
in the knowledge–rather, as Greek (see on 1Co 13:12), “in the full knowledge of Him,” namely, God.
18. understanding–The oldest manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, read “heart.” Compare the contrary state of unbelieving, the heart being in fault (Eph 4:18; Mt 13:15). Translate, “Having the eyes of your heart enlightened” (Eph 5:14; Mt 4:16). The first effect of the Spirit moving in the new creation, as in the original physical creation (Ge 1:3; 2Co 4:6). So Theophilus to Autolycus (1.3), “the ears of the heart.” Where spiritual light is, there is life (Joh 1:4). The heart is “the core of life” [Harless], and the fountain of the thoughts; whence “the heart” in Scripture includes the mind, as well as the inclination. Its “eye,” or inward vision, both receives and contemplates the light (Mt 6:22, 23). The eye is the symbol of intelligence (Eze 1:18).
the hope of his calling–the hope appertaining to His having called you; or, to the calling wherewith He has called you.
and–omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.
riches of the glory–(Col 1:27).
his inheritance in the saints–The inheritance which he has in store in the case of the saints. I prefer explaining, “The inheritance which He has in his saints.” (See on Eph 1:11; De 32:9).
power to us-ward who believe–The whole of the working of His grace, which He is carrying on, and will carry on, in us who believe. By the term “saints” (Eph 1:18), believers are regarded as absolutely perfected, and so as being God’s inheritance; in this verse, as in the course of fighting the good fight of faith.
according to–in accordance with, what might be expected from.
working–Greek, “the energizing”; translate, “the effectual working” (Eph 3:7). The same superhuman power was needed and exerted to make us believe, as was needed and exerted to raise Christ from the dead (Eph 1:20). Compare Php 3:10, “the power of His resurrection” (Col 2:12; 1Pe 1:3-5).
of his mighty power–Greek, “of the strength of His might.”
20. in Christ–as our “first-fruits” of the resurrection, and Head, in virtue of God’s mighty working in whom His power to us-ward is made possible and actual [Alford].
when he raised him–“in that He raised Him.” The raising of Christ is not only an earnest of our bodies being hereafter raised, but has a spiritual power in it involving (by virtue of our living union with Him, as members with the Head) the resurrection, spiritually of the believer’s soul now, and, consequently, of his body hereafter (Ro 6:8-11; 8:11). The Son, too, as God (though not as man), had a share in raising His own human body (Joh 2:19; 10:17, 18). Also the Holy Spirit (Ro 1:4; 1Pe 3:18).
set him–Greek, “made Him sit.” The glorious spirits stand about the throne of God, but they do not sit at God’s right hand (Heb 1:13).
at his own right hand–(Ps 110:1). Where He remains till all His enemies have been put under His feet (1Co 15:24). Being appointed to “rule in the midst of His enemies” during their rebellion (Ps 110:2), He shall resign His commission after their subjection [Pearson] (Mr 16:19; Heb 1:3; 10:12).
in the heavenly places–(Eph 1:3). As Christ has a literal body, heaven is not merely a state, but a place; and where He is, there His people shall be (Joh 14:3).
21. Greek, “Far (or high) above all (Eph 4:10) principality (or rule, 1Co 15:24), and authority, and power (Mt 28:18), and dominion (or lordship).” Compare Php 2:9; Col 1:16; Heb 7:26; 1Pe 3:22. Evil spirits (who are similarly divided into various ranks, Eph 6:12), as well as angels of light, and earthly potentates, are included (compare Ro 8:38). Jesus is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Re 19:16). The higher is His honor, the greater is that of His people, who are His members joined to Him, the Head. Some philosophizing teachers of the school of Simon Magus, in Western Asia Minor, had, according to Irenæus and Epiphanius, taught their hearers these names of various ranks of angels. Paul shows that the truest wisdom is to know Christ as reigning above them all.
every name–every being whatever. “Any other creature” (Ro 8:39).
in this world–Greek, “age,” that is, the present order of things. “Things present … things to come” (Ro 8:38).
that … to come–“Names which now we know not, but shall know hereafter in heaven. We know that the emperor goes before all, though we cannot enumerate all the satraps and ministers of his court; so we know that Christ is set above all, although we cannot name them all” [Bengel].
22. put … under–Greek, “put in subjection under” (Ps 8:6; 1Co 15:27).
gave … to the church–for her special advantage. The Greek order is emphatic: “HIM He gave as Head over all things to the Church.” Had it been anyone save Him, her Head, it would not have been the boon it is to the Church. But as He is Head over all things who is also her Head (and she the body), all things are hers (1Co 3:21-23). He is OVER (“far above”) all things; in contrast to the words, “TO the Church,” namely, for her advantage. The former are subject; the latter is joined with Him in His dominion over them. “Head” implies not only His dominion, but our union; therefore, while we look upon Him at the right hand of God, we see ourselves in heaven (Re 3:21). For the Head and body are not severed by anything intervening, else the body would cease to be the body, and the Head cease to be the Head [Pearson from Chrysostom].
23. his body–His mystical and spiritual, not literal, body. Not, however, merely figurative, or metaphorical. He is really, though spiritually, the Church’s Head. His life is her life. She shares His crucifixion and His consequent glory. He possesses everything, His fellowship with the Father, His fulness of the Spirit, and His glorified manhood, not merely for Himself, but for her, who has a membership of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Eph 5:30).
fulness–“the filled-up receptacle” [Eadie]. The Church is dwelt in and filled by Christ. She is the receptacle, not of His inherent, but of His communicated, plenitude of gifts and graces. As His is the “fulness” (Joh 1:16; Col 1:19; 2:9) inherently, so she is His “fulness” by His impartation of it to her, in virtue of her union to Him (Eph 5:18; Col 2:10). “The full manifestation of His being, because penetrated by His life” [Conybeare and Howson]. She is the continued revelation of His divine life in human form; the fullest representative of His plenitude. Not the angelic hierarchy, as false teachers taught (Col 2:9, 10, 18), but Christ Himself is the “fulness of the Godhead,” and she represents Him. Koppe translates less probably, “the whole universal multitude.”
filleth all in all–Christ as the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the world, constituted by God (Col 1:16-19), fills all the universe of things with all things. “Fills all creation with whatever it possesses” [Alford]. The Greek is, “filleth for Himself.”
Eph 2:1-22. God’s Love and Grace in Quickening Us, Once Dead, through Christ. His Purpose in Doing So: Exhortation Based on Our Privileges as Built Together, an Holy Temple, in Christ, through the Spirit.
1. And you–“You also,” among those who have experienced His mighty power in enabling them to believe (Eph 1:19-23).
hath he quickened–supplied from the Greek (Eph 2:5).
dead–spiritually. (Col 2:13). A living corpse: without the gracious presence of God’s Spirit in the soul, and so unable to think, will, or do aught that is holy.
in trespasses … sins–in them, as the element in which the unbeliever is, and through which he is dead to the true life. Sin is the death of the soul. Isa 9:2; Joh 5:25, “dead” (spiritually), 1Ti 5:6. “Alienated from the life of God” (Eph 4:18). Translate, as Greek, “in your trespasses,” &c. “Trespass” in Greek, expresses a FALL or LAPSE, such as the transgression of Adam whereby he fell. “Sin.” (Greek, “hamartia”) implies innate corruption and ALIENATION from God (literally, erring of the mind from the rule of truth), exhibited in acts of sin (Greek, “hamartemata”). Bengel, refers “trespasses” to the Jews who had the law, and yet revolted from it; “sins,” to the Gentiles who know not God.
2. the course of this world–the career (literally, “the age,” compare Ga 1:4), or present system of this world (1Co 2:6, 12; 3:18, 19, as opposed to “the world to come”): alien from God, and lying in the wicked one (1Jo 5:19). “The age” (which is something more external and ethical) regulates “the world” (which is something more external).
the prince of the power of the air–the unseen God who lies underneath guiding “the course of this world” (2Co 4:4); ranging through the air around us: compare Mr 4:4, “fowls of the air” (Greek, “heaven”) that is, (Eph 2:15), “Satan” and his demons. Compare Eph 6:12; Joh 12:31. Christ’s ascension seems to have cast Satan out of heaven (Re 12:5, 9, 10, 12, 13), where he had been heretofore the accuser of the brethren (Job 1:6-11). No longer able to accuse in heaven those justified by Christ, the ascended Saviour (Ro 8:33, 34), he assails them on earth with all trials and temptations; and “we live in an atmosphere poisonous and impregnated with deadly elements. But a mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ’s coming” [Auberlen], for Satan shall be bound (Re 12:12, 13, 15, 17; 20:2, 3). “The power” is here used collectively for the “powers of the air”; in apposition with which “powers” stand the “spirits,” comprehended in the singular, “the spirit,” taken also collectively: the aggregate of the “seducing spirits” (1Ti 4:1) which “work now (still; not merely, as in your case, ‘in time past’) in the sons of disobedience” (a Hebraism: men who are not merely by accident disobedient, but who are essentially sons of disobedience itself: compare Mt 3:7), and of which Satan is here declared to be “the prince.” The Greek does not allow “the spirit” to refer to Satan, “the prince” himself, but to “the powers of the air” of which he is prince. The powers of the air are the embodiment of that evil “spirit” which is the ruling principle of unbelievers, especially the heathen (Ac 26:18), as opposed to the spirit of the children of God (Lu 4:33). The potency of that “spirit” is shown in the “disobedience” of the former. Compare De 32:20, “children in whom is no faith” (Isa 30:9; 57:4). They disobey the Gospel both in faith and practice (2Th 1:8; 2Co 2:12).
3. also we–that is, we also. Paul here joins himself in the same category with them, passing from the second person (Eph 2:1, 2) to the first person here.
all–Jews and Gentiles.
our conversation–“our way of life” (2Co 1:12; 1Pe 1:18). This expression implies an outwardly more decorous course, than the open “walk” in gross sins on the part of the majority of Ephesians in times past, the Gentile portion of whom may be specially referred to in Eph 2:2. Paul and his Jewish countrymen, though outwardly more seemly than the Gentiles (Ac 26:4, 5, 18), had been essentially like them in living to the unrenewed flesh, without the Spirit of God.
mind–Greek, “our thoughts.” Mental suggestions and purposes (independent of God), as distinguished from the blind impulses of “the flesh.”
and were by nature–He intentionally breaks off the construction, substituting “and we were” for “and being,” to mark emphatically his and their past state by nature, as contrasted with their present state by grace. Not merely is it, we had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires, and so being children of wrath; but we were by nature originally “children of wrath,” and so consequently had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires. “Nature,” in Greek, implies that which has grown in us as the peculiarity of our being, growing with our growth, and strengthening with our strength, as distinguished from that which has been wrought on us by mere external influences: what is inherent, not acquired (Job 14:4; Ps 51:5). An incidental proof of the doctrine of original sin.
children of wrath–not merely “sons,” as in the Greek, “sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2), but “children” by generation; not merely by adoption, as “sons” might be. The Greek order more emphatically marks this innate corruption: “Those who in their (very) nature are children of wrath”; Eph 2:5, “grace” is opposed to “nature” here; and salvation (implied in Eph 2:5, 8, “saved”) to “wrath.” Compare Article IX, Church of England Common Prayer Book. “Original sin (birth-sin), standeth not in the following of Adam, but is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, naturally engendered of Adam [Christ was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin], whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil; and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.” Paul shows that even the Jews, who boasted of their birth from Abraham, were by natural birth equally children of wrath as the Gentiles, whom the Jews despised on account of their birth from idolaters (Ro 3:9; 5:12-14). “Wrath abideth” on all who disobey the Gospel in faith and practice (Joh 3:36). The phrase, “children of wrath,” is a Hebraism, that is, objects of God’s wrath from childhood, in our natural state, as being born in the sin which God hates. So “son of death” (2Sa 12:5, Margin); “son of perdition” (Joh 17:12; 2Th 2:3).
as others–Greek, “as the rest” of mankind are (1Th 4:13).
4. God, who is rich–Greek “(as) being rich in mercy.”
for–that is, “because of His great love.” This was the special ground of God’s saving us; as “rich in mercy” (compare Eph 2:7; Eph 1:7; Ro 2:4; 10:12) was the general ground. “Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” [Bengel].
5. dead in sins–The best reading is in the Greek, “dead in our (literally, ‘the’) trespasses.”
quickened–“vivified” spiritually, and consequences hereafter, corporally. There must be a spiritual resurrection of the soul before there can be a comfortable resurrection of the body [Pearson] (Joh 11:25, 26; Ro 8:11).
together with Christ–The Head being seated at God’s right hand, the body also sits there with Him [Chrysostom]. We are already seated there IN Him (“in Christ Jesus,” Eph 2:6), and hereafter shall be seated by Him; IN Him already as in our Head, which is the ground of our hope; by Him hereafter, as by the conferring cause, when hope shall be swallowed up in fruition [Pearson]. What God wrought in Christ, He wrought (by the very fact) in all united to Christ, and one with Him.
by grace ye are saved–Greek, “Ye are in a saved state.” Not merely “ye are being saved,” but ye “are passed from death unto life” (Joh 5:24). Salvation is to the Christian not a thing to be waited for hereafter, but already realized (1Jo 3:14). The parenthetic introduction of this clause here (compare Eph 2:8) is a burst of Paul’s feeling, and in order to make the Ephesians feel that grace from first to last is the sole source of salvation; hence, too, he says “ye,” not “we.”
6. raised us up together–with Christ. The “raising up” presupposes previous quickening of Jesus in the tomb, and of us in the grave of our sins.
made us sit together–with Christ, namely, in His ascension. Believers are bodily in heaven in point of right, and virtually so in spirit, and have each their own place assigned there, which in due time they shall take possession of (Php 3:20, 21). He does not say, “on the right hand of God”; a prerogative reserved to Christ peculiarly; though they shall share His throne (Re 3:21).
in Christ Jesus–Our union with Him is the ground of our present spiritual, and future bodily, resurrection and ascension. “Christ Jesus” is the phrase mostly used in this Epistle, in which the office of the Christ, the Anointed Prophet, Priest and King, is the prominent thought; when the Person is prominent, “Jesus Christ” is the phrase used.
7. Greek, “That He might show forth (middle reflexive voice; for His own glory, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) in the ages which are coming on,” that is, the blessed ages of the Gospel which supersede “the age (Greek, for ‘course’) of this world” (Eph 2:2), and the past “ages” from which the mystery was hidden (Col 1:26, 27). These good ages, though beginning with the first preaching of the Gospel, and thenceforth continually succeeding one another, are not consummated till the Lord’s coming again (compare Eph 1:21; Heb 6:5). The words, “coming on,” do not exclude the time then present, but imply simply the ages following upon Christ’s “raising them up together” spiritually (Eph 2:6).
through Christ–rather, as Greek, “in Christ”; the same expression as is so often repeated, to mark that all our blessings center “IN Him.”
8. For–illustrating “the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness.” Translate as in Eph 2:5, “Ye are in a saved state.”
through faith–the effect of the power of Christ’s resurrection (Eph 1:19, 20; Php 3:10) whereby we are “raised together” with Him (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, “through your (literally, ‘the’) faith.” The instrument or mean of salvation on the part of the person saved; Christ alone is the meritorious agent.
and that–namely, the act of believing, or “faith.” “Of yourselves” stands in opposition to, “it is the gift of God” (Php 1:29). “That which I have said, ‘through faith,’ I do not wish to be understood so as if I excepted faith itself from grace” [Estius]. “God justifies the believing man, not for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of Him in whom he believes” [Hooker]. The initiation, as well as the increase, of faith, is from the Spirit of God, not only by an external proposal of the word, but by internal illumination in the soul [Pearson]. Yet “faith” cometh by the means which man must avail himself of, namely, “hearing the word of God” (Ro 10:17), and prayer (Lu 11:13), though the blessing is wholly of God (1Co 3:6, 7).
9. Not of works–This clause stands in contrast to “by grace,” as is confirmed by Ro 4:4, 5; 11:6.
lest–rather, as Greek, “that no man should boast” (Ro 3:27; 4:2).
10. workmanship–literally, “a thing of His making”; “handiwork.” Here the spiritual creation, not the physical, is referred to (Eph 2:8, 9).
created–having been created (Eph 4:24; Ps 102:18; Isa 43:21; 2Co 5:5, 17).
unto good works–“for good works.” “Good works” cannot be performed until we are new “created unto” them. Paul never calls the works of the law “good works.” We are not saved by, but created unto, good works.
before ordained–Greek, “before made ready” (compare Joh 5:36). God marks out for each in His purposes beforehand, the particular good works, and the time and way which tie sees best. God both makes ready by His providence the opportunities for the works, and makes us ready for their performance (Joh 15:16; 2Ti 2:21).
that we should walk in them–not “be saved” by them. Works do not justify, but the justified man works (Ga 5:22-25).
11. The Greek order in the oldest manuscripts is, “That in time past (literally, once) ye,” &c. Such remembrance sharpens gratitude and strengthens faith (Eph 2:19) [Bengel].
Gentiles in the flesh–that is, Gentiles in respect to circumcision.
called Uncircumcision–The Gentiles were called (in contempt), and were, the Uncircumcision; the Jews were called, but were not truly, the Circumcision [Ellicott].
in the flesh made by hands–as opposed to the true “circumcision of the heart in the Spirit, and not the letter” (Ro 2:29), “made without the hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11).
12. without Christ–Greek, “separate from Christ”; having no part in Him; far from Him. A different Greek word (aneu) would be required to express, “Christ was not present with you” [Tittmann].
aliens–Greek, “alienated from,” not merely “separated from.” The Israelites were cut off from the commonwealth of God, but it was as being self-righteous, indolent, and unworthy, not as aliens and strangers [Chrysostom]. The expression, “alienated from,” takes it for granted that the Gentiles, before they had apostatized from the primitive truth, had been sharers in light and life (compare Eph 4:18, 23). The hope of redemption through the Messiah, on their subsequent apostasy, was embodied into a definite “commonwealth” or polity, namely, that “of Israel,” from which the Gentiles were alienated. Contrast Eph 2:13; Eph 3:6; 4:4, 5, with Ps 147:20.
covenants of promise–rather, “… of the promise,” namely, “to thee and thy seed will I give this land” (Ro 9:4; Ga 3:16). The plural implies the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the whole people at Sinai [Alford]. “The promise” is singular, to signify that the covenant, in reality, and substantially, is one and the same at all times, but only different in its accidents and external circumstances (compare Heb 1:1, “at sundry times and in divers manners”).
having no … hope–beyond this life (1Co 15:19). The CONJECTURES of heathen philosophers as to a future life were at best vague and utterly unsatisfactory. They had no divine “promise,” and therefore no sure ground of “hope.” Epicurus and Aristotle did not believe in it at all. The Platonists believed the soul passed through perpetual changes, now happy, and then again miserable; the Stoics, that it existed no longer than till the time of the general burning up of all things.
without God–Greek, “atheists,” that is, they had not “God” in the sense we use the word, the Eternal Being who made and governs all things (compare Ac 14:15, “Turn from these vanities unto the living God who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things therein”), whereas the Jews had distinct ideas of God and immortality. Compare also Ga 4:8, “Ye knew not God … ye did service unto them which are no gods” (1Th 4:5). So also pantheists are atheists, for an impersonal God is NO God, and an ideal immortality no immortality [Tholuck].
in the world–in contrast to belonging to “the commonwealth of Israel.” Having their portion and their all in this godless vain world (Ps 17:14), from which Christ delivers His people (Joh 15:19; 17:14; Ga 1:4).
13. now–in contrast to “at that time” (Eph 2:12).
in Christ Jesus–“Jesus” is here added, whereas the expression before (Eph 2:12) had been merely “Christ,” to mark that they know Christ as the personal Saviour, “Jesus.”
far off–the Jewish description of the Gentiles. Far off from God and from the people of God (Eph 2:17; Isa 57:19; Ac 2:39).
are–Greek, “have been.”
by–Greek, “in.” Thus “the blood of Christ” is made the seal of a covenant IN which their nearness to God consists. In Eph 1:7, where the blood is more directly spoken of as the instrument, it is “through His blood” [Alford].
14. he–Greek, “Himself” alone, pre-eminently, and none else. Emphatical.
our peace–not merely “Peacemaker,” but “Himself” the price of our (Jews’ and Gentiles’ alike) peace with God, and so the bond of union between “both” in God. He took both into Himself, and reconciled them, united, to God, by His assuming our nature and our penal and legal liabilities (Eph 2:15; Isa 9:5, 6; 53:5; Mic 5:5; Col 1:20). His title, “Shiloh,” means the same (Ge 49:10).
the middle wall of partition–Greek, “… of the partition” or “fence”; the middle wall which parted Jew and Gentile. There was a balustrade of stone which separated the court of the Gentiles from the holy place, which it was death for a Gentile to pass. But this, though incidentally alluded to, was but a symbol of the partition itself, namely, “the enmity” between “both” and God (Eph 2:15), the real cause of separation from God, and so the mediate cause of their separation from one another. Hence there was a twofold wall of partition, one the inner wall, severing the Jewish people from entrance to the holy part of the temple where the priests officiated, the other the outer wall, separating the Gentile proselytes from access to the court of the Jews (compare Eze 44:7; Ac 21:28). Thus this twofold wall represented the Sinaitic law, which both severed all men, even the Jews, from access to God (through sin, which is the violation of the law), and also separated the Gentiles from the Jews. As the term “wall” implies the strength of the partition, so “fence” implies that it was easily removed by God when the due time came.
15. Rather, make “enmity” an apposition to “the middle wall of partition”; “Hath broken down the middle wall of partition (not merely as English Version, ‘between us,’ but also between all men and God), to wit, the enmity (Ro 8:7) by His flesh” (compare Eph 2:16; Ro 8:3).
the law of commandments contained in–Greek, “the law of the commandments (consisting) in ordinances.” This law was “the partition” or “fence,” which embodied the expression of the “enmity” (the “wrath” of God against our sin, and our enmity to Him, Eph 2:3) (Ro 4:15; 5:20; 7:10, 11; 8:7). Christ has in, or by, His crucified flesh, abolished it, so far as its condemning and enmity-creating power is concerned (Col 2:14), substituting for it the law of love, which is the everlasting spirit of the law, and which flows from the realization in the soul of His love in His death for us. Translate what follows, “that He might make the two (Jews and Gentiles) into one new man.” Not that He might merely reconcile the two to each other, but incorporate the two, reconciled in Him to God, into one new man; the old man to which both belonged, the enemy of God, having been slain in His flesh on the cross. Observe, too, ONE new man; we are all in God’s sight but one in Christ, as we are but one in Adam [Alford].
making peace–primarily between all and God, secondarily between Jews and Gentiles; He being “our peace.” This “peace-making” precedes its publication (Eph 2:17).
16. Translate, “might altogether reconcile them both in one body (the Church, Col 3:15) unto God through His cross.” The Greek for “reconcile” (apocatalaxe), found only here and in Col 1:20, expresses not only a return to favor with one (catallage), but so to lay aside enmity that complete amity follows; to pass from enmity to complete reconciliation [Tittmann].
slain the enmity–namely, that had been between man and God; and so that between Jew and Gentile which had resulted from it. By His being slain, He slew it (compare Heb 2:14).
thereby–Greek, “therein”; “in” or “by the cross,” that is, His crucifixion (Col 2:15).
17. Translate, “He came and announced glad tidings of peace.” “He came” of His own free love, and “announced peace” with His own mouth to the apostles (Lu 24:36; Joh 20:19, 21, 26); and by them to others, through His Spirit present in His Church (Joh 14:18). Ac 26:23 is strictly parallel; after His resurrection “He showed light to the people (‘them that were nigh’) and to the Gentiles (‘you that were afar off’),” by His Spirit in His ministers (compare 1Pe 3:19).
and to them–The oldest manuscripts insert “peace” again: “And peace to them.” The repetition implies the joy with which both alike would dwell again and again upon the welcome word “peace.” So Isa 57:19.
18. Translate, “For it is through Him (Joh 14:6; Heb 10:19) that we have our access (Eph 3:12; Ro 5:2), both of us, in (that is, united in, that is, “by,” 1Co 12:13, Greek) one Spirit to the Father,” namely, as our common Father, reconciled to both alike; whence flows the removal of all separation between Jew and Gentile. The oneness of “the Spirit,” through which we both have our access, is necessarily followed by oneness of the body, the Church (Eph 2:16). The distinctness of persons in the Divine Trinity appears in this verse. It is also fatal to the theory of sacerdotal priests in the Gospel through whom alone the people can approach God. All alike, people and ministers, can draw nigh to God through Christ, their ever living Priest.
19. Now, therefore–rather, “So then” [Alford].
foreigners–rather, “sojourners”; opposed to “members of the household,” as “strangers” is to “fellow citizens.” Php 3:19, 20, “conversation,” Greek, “citizenship.”
but–The oldest manuscripts add, “are.”
with the saints–“the commonwealth of (spiritual) Israel” (Eph 2:12).
of God–THE Father; as Jesus Christ appears in Eph 2:20, and THE Spirit in Eph 2:22.
20. Translate as Greek, “Built up upon,” &c. (participle; having been built up upon; omit, therefore, “and are”). Compare 1Co 3:11, 12. The same image in Eph 3:18, recurs in his address to the Ephesian elders (Ac 20:32), and in his Epistle to Timothy at Ephesus (1Ti 3:15; 2Ti 2:19), naturally suggested by the splendid architecture of Diana’s temple; the glory of the Christian temple is eternal and real, not mere idolatrous gaud. The image of a building is appropriate also to the Jew-Christians; as the temple at Jerusalem was the stronghold of Judaism; as Diana’s temple, of paganism.
foundation of the apostles, &c.–that is, upon their ministry and living example (compare Mt 16:18). Christ Himself, the only true Foundation, was the grand subject of their ministry, and spring of their life. As one with Him and His fellow workers, they, too, in a secondary sense, are called “foundations” (Re 21:14). The “prophets” are joined with them closely; for the expression is here not “foundations of the apostles and the prophets,” but “foundations of the apostles and prophets.” For the doctrine of both was essentially one (1Pe 1:10, 11; Re 19:10). The apostles take the precedency (Lu 10:24). Thus he appropriately shows regard to the claims of the Jews and Gentiles: “the prophets” representing the old Jewish dispensation, “the apostles” the new. The “prophets” of the new also are included. Bengel and Alford refer the meaning solely to these (Eph 3:5; 4:11). These passages imply, I think, that the New Testament prophets are not excluded; but the apostle’s plain reference to Ps 118:22, “the head stone of the corner,” proves that the Old Testament prophets are a prominent thought. David is called a “prophet” in Ac 2:30. Compare also Isa 28:16; another prophet present to the mind of Paul, which prophecy leans on the earlier one of Jacob (Ge 49:24). The sense of the context, too, suits this: Ye were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (in the time of her Old Testament prophets), but now ye are members of the true Israel, built upon the foundation of her New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets. Paul continually identifies his teaching with that of Israel’s old prophets (Ac 26:22; 28:23). The costly foundation-stones of the temple (1Ki 5:17) typified the same truth (compare Jer 51:26). The same stone is at once the corner-stone and the foundation-stone on which the whole building rests. Paul supposes a stone or rock so large and so fashioned as to be both at once; supporting the whole as the foundation, and in part rising up at the extremities, so as to admit of the side walls meeting in it, and being united in it as the corner-stone [Zanchius]. As the corner-stone, it is conspicuous, as was Christ (1Pe 2:6), and coming in men’s way may be stumbled over, as the Jews did at Christ (Mt 21:42; 1Pe 2:7).
21. In whom–as holding together the whole.
fitly framed–so as exactly to fit together.
groweth–“is growing” continually. Here an additional thought is added to the image; the Church has the growth of a living organism, not the mere increase of a building. Compare 1Pe 2:5; “lively stones … built up a spiritual house.” Compare Eph 4:16; Zec 6:12, “The Branch shall build the temple of the Lord,” where similarly the growth of a branch, and the building of a temple, are joined.
holy–as being the “habitation of God” (Eph 2:22). So “in the Lord” (Christ) answers to “through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22; compare Eph 3:16, 17). “Christ is the inclusive Head of all the building, the element in which it has its being and now its growth” [Alford].
22. are builded together–Translate, “are being builded together.”
through–Greek, “in the Spirit.” God, by His Spirit in believers, has them for His habitation (1Co 3:16, 17; 6:19; 2Co 6:16).
Eph 3:1-21. His Apostolic Office to Make Known the Mystery of Christ Revealed by the Spirit: Prayer that by the Same Spirit They May Comprehend the Vast Love of Christ: Doxology Ending This Division of the Epistle.
As the first chapter treated of THE Father’s office; and the second, THE Son’s, so this, that of THE Spirit.
1. of Jesus Christ–Greek, “Christ Jesus.” The office is the prominent thought in the latter arrangement; the person, in the former. He here marks the Messiahship of “Christ,” maintained by him as the origin of his being a “prisoner,” owing to the jealousy of the Jews being roused at his preaching it to the Gentiles. His very bonds were profitable to (“for” or “in behalf of you”) Gentiles (Eph 3:13; 2Ti 2:10). He digresses at “For this cause,” and does not complete the sentence which he had intended, until Eph 3:14, where he resumes the words, “For this cause,” namely, because I know this your call of God as Gentiles (Eph 2:11-22), to be “fellow-heirs” with the Jews (Eph 3:6), “I bow my knees to” the Father of our common Saviour (Eph 3:14, 15) to confirm you in the faith by His Spirit. “I Paul,” expresses the agent employed by the Spirit to enlighten them, after he had been first enlightened himself by the same Spirit (Eph 3:3-5, 9).
2. If–The Greek does not imply doubt: “Assuming (what I know to be the fact, namely) that ye have heard,” &c. “If, as I presume,” The indicative in the Greek shows that no doubt is implied: “Seeing that doubtless,” &c. He by this phrase delicately reminds them of their having heard from himself, and probably from others subsequently, the fact. See Introduction, showing that these words do not disprove the address of this Epistle to the Ephesians. Compare Ac 20:17-24.
the dispensation–“The office of dispensing, as a steward, the grace of God which was (not ‘is’) given me to you-ward,” namely, to dispense to you.
3. he made known–The oldest manuscripts read, “That by revelation was the mystery (namely, of the admission of the Gentiles, Eph 3:6; 1:9) made known unto me (Ga 1:12).”
as I wrote afore–namely, in this Epistle (Eph 1:9, 10), the words of which he partly repeats.
4. understand my knowledge–“perceive my understanding” [Alford], or “intelligence.” “When ye read,” implies that, deep as are the mysteries of this Epistle, the way for all to understand them is to read it (2Ti 3:15, 16). By perceiving his understanding of the mysteries, they, too, will be enabled to understand.
the mystery of Christ–The “mystery” is Christ Himself, once hidden, but now revealed (Col 1:27).
5. in other ages–Greek, “generations.”
not made known–He does not say, “has not been revealed.” Making known by revelation is the source of making known by preaching [Bengel]. The former was vouchsafed only to the prophets, in order that they might make known the truth so revealed to men in general.
unto the sons of men–men in their state by birth, as contrasted with those illuminated “by the Spirit” (Greek, “IN the Spirit,” compare Re 1:10), Mt 16:17.
as–The mystery of the call of the Gentiles (of which Paul speaks here) was not unknown to the Old Testament prophets (Isa 56:6, 7; 49:6). But they did not know it with the same explicit distinctness “As” it has been now known (Ac 10:19, 20; 11:18-21). They probably did not know that the Gentiles were to be admitted without circumcision or that they were to be on a level with the Jews in partaking of the grace of God. The gift of “the Spirit” in its fulness was reserved for the New Testament that Christ might thereby be glorified. The epithet, “holy,” marks the special consecration of the New Testament “prophets” (who are here meant) by the Spirit, compared with which even the Old Testament prophets were but “sons of men” (Eze 2:3, and elsewhere).
6. Translate, “That the Gentiles are,” &c. “and fellow members of the same body, and fellow partakers of the (so the oldest manuscripts read, not ‘His’) promise, in Christ Jesus (added in the oldest manuscripts), through the Gospel.” It is “in Christ Jesus” that they are made “fellow heirs” in the inheritance of God: “of the same body” under the Head, Christ Jesus; and “fellow partakers of the promise” in the communion of THE Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13; Heb 6:4). The Trinity is thus alluded to, as often elsewhere in this Epistle (Eph 2:19, 20, 22).
7. Whereof–“of which” Gospel.
according to–in consequence of, and in accordance with, “the gift of the grace of God.”
given–“which (gift of grace) was given to me by (Greek, ‘according to,’ as in Eph 3:20; 1:19: as the result of, and in proportion to) the effectual working (Greek, ‘energy,’ or ‘in-working’) of His power.”
8. am–Not merely was I in times past, but I still am the least worthy of so high an office (compare 1Ti 1:15, end).
least of all saints–not merely “of all apostles” (1Co 15:9, 10).
is–Greek, “has been given.”
among–omitted in the oldest manuscripts Translate, “to announce to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the unsearchable (Job 5:9) riches,” namely, of Christ’s grace (Eph 1:7; 2:7). Ro 11:33, “unsearchable” as a mine inexhaustible, whose treasures can never be fully explored (Eph 3:18, 19).
9. to make all men see–Greek, “to enlighten all” (Eph 1:18; Ps 18:28; Heb 6:4). “All” (compare Col 1:28).
fellowship–The oldest manuscripts read, “economy,” or “dispensation” (compare Col 1:25, 26; and see on Eph 1:10, above). “To make all see how it hath seemed good to God at this time to dispense (through me and others, His stewards) what heretofore was a mystery.” Ellicott explains it, “the arrangement,” or “regulation” of the mystery (the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ) which was now to be humbly traced and acknowledged in the fact of its having secretly existed in the counsel of God, and now having been revealed to the heavenly powers by means of the Church.
from the beginning of the world–Greek, “from (the beginning of) the ages.” Compare Eph 1:4; Ro 16:25; 1Co 2:7. The “ages” are the vast successive periods of time, marked by successive stages of creation and orders of beings.
in God–“hidden in” His counsels (Eph 1:9).
created all things by Jesus Christ–God’s creation of the world and all things therein is the foundation of the rest of the “economy,” which is freely dispensed according to the universal power of God [Bengel]. AS God created “the whole range of things” (so the Greek), physical and spiritual alike, He must have an absolute right to adjust all things as He will. Hence, we may see His right to keep the mystery of world-wide salvation in Christ “hidden in Himself,” till his own good time for revealing it. The oldest manuscripts omit “by Jesus Christ.”
10. The design of God in giving Paul grace to proclaim to the Gentiles the mystery of salvation heretofore hidden.
now–first: opposed to “hidden from the beginning of the world” (Eph 3:5).
unto the principalities and–Greek adds “the”
powers–unto the various orders of good angels primarily, as these dwell “in the heavenly places” in the highest sense; “known” to their adoring joy (1Ti 3:16; 1Pe 1:12). Secondarily, God’s wisdom in redemption is made known to evil angels, who dwell “in heavenly places” in a lower sense, namely, the air (compare Eph 2:2 with Eph 6:12); “known” to their dismay (1Co 15:24; Col 2:15).
might be known–Translate, “may be known.”
by the church–“by means of,” or “through the Church,” which is the “theater” for the display of God’s manifold wisdom (Lu 15:10; 1Co 4:9): “a spectacle (Greek, ‘theater’) to angels.” Hence, angels are but our “fellow servants” (Re 19:10).
manifold wisdom–though essentially one, as Christ is one, yet varying the economy in respect to places, times, and persons (Isa 55:8, 9; Heb 1:1). Compare 1Pe 4:10, “stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Man cannot understand aright its single acts till he can survey them as a connected whole (1Co 13:12). The call of the Church is no haphazard remedy, or afterthought, but part of the eternal scheme, which, amidst manifold varieties of dispensation, is one in its end.
11. which he purposed–Greek, “made.” Ellicott translates, “wrought.”
12. Translate, “our boldness and our access (Eph 2:18) in confidence through our faith in Him.” Alford quotes as an instance, Ro 8:38, &c. “THE access” (Greek) implies the formal introduction into the presence of a monarch.
13. “I entreat you not to be dispirited.”
for you–in your behalf.
which is–rather, “which are your glory,” namely, inasmuch as showing that God loved you so much, as both to give His Son for you, and to permit His apostles to suffer “tribulations” for you [Chrysostom] in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. See on Eph 3:1, “prisoner for you Gentiles.” My tribulations are your spiritual “glory,” as your faith is furthered thereby (1Co 4:10).
14. For this cause–Resuming the thread of Eph 3:1, “For this cause.” Because ye have such a standing in God’s Church [Alford].
bow my knees–the proper attitude in humble prayer. Posture affects the mind, and is not therefore unimportant. See Paul’s practice (Ac 20:36); and that of the Lord Himself on earth (Lu 22:41).
unto the Father–The oldest manuscripts omit “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But Vulgate and some very old authorities retain them: Eph 3:15, “From whom,” in either case, refers to “the Father” (Patera), as “family” (patria, akin in sound and etymology) plainly refers to Him. Still the foundation of all sonship is in Jesus Christ.
15. the whole family–Alford, Middleton, and others translate, “every family”: alluding to the several families in heaven and in earth supposed to exist [Theophylact, Æcumenius, in Suicer, 2.633], the apostle thus being supposed to imply that God, in His relation of Father to us His adopted children, is the great prototype of the paternal relation wherever found. But the idea that “the holy angels are bound up in spiritual families or compaternities,” is nowhere else in Scripture referred to. And Ac 2:36, where the article is similarly omitted, and yet the translation is, “All the house of Israel,” shows that in New Testament Greek the translation is justifiable, “all the family,” or “the whole family”: which accords with Scripture views, that angels and men, the saints militant and those with God, are one holy family joined under the one Father in Christ, the mediator between heaven and earth (Eph 1:10; Php 2:10). Hence angels are termed our “brethren” (Re 19:10), and “sons of God” by creation, as we are by adoption (Job 38:7). The Church is part of the grand family, or kingdom, which comprehends, besides men, the higher spiritual world, where the archetype, to the realization of which redeemed man is now tending, is already realized. This universal idea of the “kingdom” of God as one divine community, is presented to us in the Lord’s Prayer. By sin men were estranged, not only from God, but from that higher spiritual world in which the kingdom of God is already realized. As Christ when He reconciled men to God, united them to one another in a divine community (joined to Himself, the one Head), breaking down the partition wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14), so also He joins them in communion with all those who have already attained that perfection in the kingdom of God, to which the Church on earth is aspiring (Col 1:20) [Neander].
is named–derives its origin and its name as sons of God. To be named, and to be, are one with God. To bear God’s name is to belong to God as His own peculiar people (Nu 6:27; Isa 43:7; 44:5; Ro 9:25, 26).
16. according to–that is in abundance consonant to the riches of His glory; not “according to” the narrowness of our hearts. Col 1:11, “Strengthened with all might according to His glorious power.”
by–Greek, “through”; “by means of His Spirit.”
in–The Greek implies, “infused into.”
the inner man–(Eph 4:22, 24; 1Pe 3:4); “the hidden man of the heart.” Not predicated of unbelievers, whose inward and outward man alike are carnal. But in believers, the “inner (new) man,” their true self, stands in contrast to their old man, which is attached to them as a body of death daily being mortified, but not their true self.
17. That–So that.
dwell–abidingly make His abode (Joh 14:23). Where the Spirit is there Christ is (Joh 14:16, 18).
by faith–Greek, “through faith,” which opens the door of the heart to Jesus (Joh 3:20). It is not enough that He be on the tongue, or flit through the brain: the heart is His proper seat [Calvin]. “You being rooted and grounded in love” (compare Eph 3:19), is in the Greek connected with this clause, not with the clause, “that ye may be able to comprehend.” “Rooted” is an image from a tree; “grounded” (Greek, “founder,” “having your foundations resting on”), from a building (compare Notes,, see on Eph 2:20,21; Col 1:23; 2:7). Contrast Mt 13:6, 21. “Love,” the first-fruit of the Spirit, flowing from Christ’s love realized in the soul, was to be the basis on which should rest their further comprehension of all the vastness of Christ’s love.
18. May be able–even still further. Greek, “May be fully able.”
breadth … length … depth … height–namely, the full dimensions of the spiritual temple, answering to “the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19), to which the Church, according to its capacity, ought to correspond (compare Eph 4:10, 13) as to “the fulness of Christ.” The “breadth” implies Christ’s world-wide love, embracing all men: the “length,” its being extended through all ages (Eph 3:21); the “depth,” its profound wisdom which no creature can fathom (Ro 11:33); the “height,” its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us of (Eph 4:8) [Bengel]. I prefer to understand “the breadth,” &c., to refer to the whole of the vast mystery of free salvation in Christ for all, Gentile and Jew alike, of which Paul had been speaking (Eph 3:3-9), and of which he now prays they may have a fuller comprehension. As subsidiary to this, and the most essential part of it, he adds, “and to know the love of Christ” (Eph 3:19). Grotius understands depth and height of God’s goodness raising us from the lowest depression to the greatest height.
19. passeth–surpasseth, exceeds. The paradox “to know … which passeth knowledge,” implies that when he says “know,” he does not mean that we can adequately know; all we know is, that His love exceeds far our knowledge of it, and with even our fresh accessions of knowledge hereafter, will still exceed them. Even as God’s power exceeds our thoughts (Eph 3:20).
filled with–rather, as Greek, “filled even unto all the fulness of God” (this is the grand goal), that is, filled, each according to your capacity, with the divine wisdom, knowledge, and love; “even as God is full,” and as Christ who dwells in your hearts, hath “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily” (Col 2:9).
20. unto him–contrasted with ourselves and our needs. Translate, “that is able above all things (what is above all things) to do exceeding abundantly above what we ask or (even) think”: thought takes a wider range than prayers. The word, above, occurs thrice as often in Paul’s writings, as in all the rest of the New Testament, showing the warm exuberance of Paul’s spirit.
according to the power–the indwelling Spirit (Ro 8:26). He appeals to their and his experience.
21. Translate, “Unto Him be the glory (that is, the whole glory of the gracious dispensation of salvation just spoken of) in the Church (as the theater for the manifestation of the glory, Eph 3:10) in Christ Jesus (as in Him all the glory centers, Zec 6:13) to all the generations of eternal ages,” literally, “of the age of the ages.” Eternity is conceived as consisting of “ages” (these again consisting of “generations”) endlessly succeeding one another.
Eph 4:1-32. Exhortations to Christian Duties Resting on Our Christian Privileges, as United in One Body, though Varying in the Graces Given to the Several Members, that We May Come unto a Perfect Man in Christ.
1. Translate, according to the Greek order, “I beseech you, therefore (seeing that such is your calling of grace, the first through third chapters) I the prisoner in the Lord (that is, imprisoned in the Lord’s cause).” What the world counted ignominy, he counts the highest honor, and he glories in his bonds for Christ, more than a king in his diadem [Theodoret]. His bonds, too, are an argument which should enforce his exhortation.
vocation–Translate, “calling” to accord, as the Greek does, with “called” (Eph 4:4; Eph 1:18; Ro 8:28, 30). Col 3:15 similarly grounds Christian duties on our Christian “calling.” The exhortations of this part of the Epistle are built on the conscious enjoyment of the privileges mentioned in the former part. Compare Eph 4:32, with Eph 1:7; Eph 5:1 with Eph 1:5; Eph 4:30, with Eph 1:13; Eph 5:15, with Eph 1:8.
2, 3. lowliness–In classic Greek, the meaning is meanness of spirit: the Gospel has elevated the word to express a Christian grace, namely, the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so; the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore lowlily, of ourselves [Trench].
meekness–that spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us without disputing and resisting; and also the accepting patiently of the injuries done us by men, out of the thought that they are permitted by God for the chastening and purifying of His people (2Sa 16:11; compare Ga 6:1; 2Ti 2:25; Tit 3:2). It is only the lowly, humble heart that is also meek (Col 3:12). As “lowliness and meekness” answer to “forbearing one another in love” (compare “love,” Eph 4:15, 16), so “long-suffering” answers to (Eph 4:4) “endeavoring (Greek, ‘earnestly’ or ‘zealously giving diligence’) to keep (maintain) the unity of the Spirit (the unity between men of different tempers, which flows from the presence of the Spirit, who is Himself ‘one,’ Eph 4:4) in (united in) the bond of peace” (the “bond” by which “peace” is maintained, namely, “love,” Col 3:14, 15 [Bengel]; or, “peace” itself is the “bond” meant, uniting the members of the Church [Alford]).
4. In the apostle’s creed, the article as to THE Church properly follows that as to THE Holy Ghost. To the Trinity naturally is annexed the Church, as the house to its tenant, to God His temple, the state to its founder [Augustine, Enchiridion, c. 15]. There is yet to be a Church, not merely potentially, but actually catholic or world-wide; then the Church and the world will be co-extensive. Rome falls into inextricable error by setting up a mere man as a visible head, antedating that consummation which Christ, the true visible Head, at His appearing shall first realize. As the “SPIRIT” is mentioned here, so the “Lord” (Jesus), Eph 4:5, and “God the Father,” Eph 4:6. Thus the Trinity is again set forth.
hope–here associated with “the Spirit,” which is the “earnest of our inheritance” (Eph 1:13, 14). As “faith” is mentioned, Eph 4:5, so “hope” here, and “love,” Eph 4:2. The Holy Spirit, as the common higher principle of life (Eph 2:18, 22), gives to the Church its true unity. Outward uniformity is as yet unattainable; but beginning by having one mind, we shall hereafter end by having “one body.” The true “body” of Christ (all believers of every age) is already “one,” as joined to the one Head. But its unity is as yet not visible, even as the Head is not visible; but it shall appear when He shall appear (Joh 17:21-23; Col 3:4). Meanwhile the rule is, “In essentials, unity; in doubtful questions, liberty; in all things, charity.” There is more real unity where both go to heaven under different names than when with the same name one goes to heaven, the other to hell. Truth is the first thing: those who reach it, will at last reach unity, because truth is one; while those who seek unity as the first thing, may purchase it at the sacrifice of truth, and so of the soul itself.
of your calling–the one “hope” flowing from our “calling,” is the element “IN” which we are “called” to live. Instead of privileged classes, as the Jews under the law, a unity of dispensation was henceforth to be the common privilege of Jew and Gentile alike. Spirituality, universality, and unity, were designed to characterize the Church; and it shall be so at last (Isa 2:2-4; 11:9, 13; Zep 3:9; Zec 14:9).
5. Similarly “faith” and “baptism” (the sacramental seal of faith) are connected (Mr 16:16; Col 2:12). Compare 1Co 12:13, “Faith” is not here that which we believe, but the act of believing, the mean by which we apprehend the “one Lord.” “Baptism” is specified, being the sacrament whereby we are incorporated into the “one body.” Not the Lord’s Supper, which is an act of matured communion on the part of those already incorporate, “a symbol of union, not of unity” [Ellicott]. In 1Co 10:17, where a breach of union was in question, it forms the rallying point [Alford]. There is not added, “One pope, one council, one form of government” [Cautions for Times]. The Church is one in unity of faith (Eph 4:5; Jude 3); unity of origination (Eph 2:19-21): unity of sacraments (Eph 4:5; 1Co 10:17; 12:13): unity of “hope” (Eph 4:4; Tit 1:2); unity of charity (Eph 4:3): unity (not uniformity) of discipline and government: for where there is no order, no ministry with Christ as the Head, there is no Church [Pearson, Exposition of the Creed, Article IX].
6. above–“over all.” The “one God over all” (in His sovereignty and by His grace) is the grand source and crowning apex of unity (Eph 2:19, end).
through all–by means of Christ “who filleth all things” (Eph 4:10; 2:20, 21), and is “a propitiation” for all men (1Jo 2:2).
in you all–The oldest manuscripts omit “you.” Many of the oldest versions and Fathers and old manuscripts read, “in us all.” Whether the pronoun be read or not, it must be understood (either from the “ye,” Eph 4:4, or from the “us,” Eph 4:7); for other parts of Scripture prove that the Spirit is not “in all” men, but only in believers (Ro 8:9, 14). God is “Father” both by generation (as Creator) and regeneration (Eph 2:10; Jas 1:17, 18; 1Jo 5:1).
7. But–Though “one” in our common connection with “one Lord, one faith, &c., one God,” yet “each one of us” has assigned to him his own particular gift, to be used for the good of the whole: none is overlooked; none therefore can be dispensed with for the edifying of the Church (Eph 4:12). A motive to unity (Eph 4:3). Translate, “Unto each one of us was the grace (which was bestowed by Christ at His ascension, Eph 4:8) given according to,” &c.
the measure–the amount “of the gift of Christ” (Ro 12:3, 6).
8. Wherefore–“For which reason,” namely, in order to intimate that Christ, the Head of the Church, is the author of all these different gifts, and that giving of them is an act of His “grace” [Estius].
he saith–God, whose word the Scripture is (Ps 68:18).
When he ascended–God is meant in the Psalm, represented by the ark, which was being brought up to Zion in triumph by David, after that “the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (2Sa 6:1-7:1; 1Ch 15:1-29). Paul quotes it of Christ ascending to heaven, who is therefore God.
captivity–that is, a band of captives. In the Psalm, the captive foes of David. In the antitypical meaning, the foes of Christ the Son of David, the devil, death, the curse, and sin (Col 2:15; 2Pe 2:4), led as it were in triumphal procession as a sign of the destruction of the foe.
gave gifts unto men–in the Psalm, “received gifts for men,” Hebrew, “among men,” that is, “thou hast received gifts” to distribute among men. As a conqueror distributes in token of his triumph the spoils of foes as gifts among his people. The impartation of the gifts and graces of the Spirit depended on Christ’s ascension (Joh 7:39; 14:12). Paul stops short in the middle of the verse, and does not quote “that the Lord God might dwell among them.” This, it is true, is partly fulfilled in Christians being an “habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22). But the Psalm (Ps 68:16) refers to “the Lord dwelling in Zion for ever”; the ascension amidst attendant angels, having as its counterpart the second advent amidst “thousands of angels” (Ps 68:17), accompanied by the restoration of Israel (Ps 68:22), the destruction of God’s enemies and the resurrection (Ps 68:20, 21, 23), the conversion of the kingdoms of the world to the Lord at Jerusalem (Ps 68:29-34).
9. Paul reasons that (assuming Him to be God) His ascent implies a previous descent; and that the language of the Psalm can only refer to Christ, who first descended, then ascended. For God the Father does not ascend or descend. Yet the Psalm plainly refers to God (Eph 4:8, 17, 18). It must therefore be God the Son (Joh 6:33, 62). As He declares (Joh 3:13), “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven.” Others, though they did not previously descend, have ascended; but none save Christ can be referred to in the Psalm as having done so; for it is of God it speaks.
lower parts of the earth–The antithesis or contrast to “far above all heavens,” is the argument of Alford and others, to show that this phrase means more than simply the earth, namely, the regions beneath it, even as He ascended not merely to the visible heavens, but “far above” them. Moreover, His design “that He might fill all things” (Eph 4:10, Greek, “the whole universe of things”) may imply the same. But see on Eph 4:10 on those words. Also the leading “captive” of the “captive hand” (“captivity”) of satanic powers, may imply that the warfare reached to their habitation itself (Ps 63:9). Christ, as Lord of all, took possession first of the earth the unseen world beneath it (some conjecture that the region of the lost is in the central parts of our globe), then of heaven (Ac 2:27, 28). However, all we surely know is, that His soul at death descended to Hades, that is, underwent the ordinary condition of departed spirits of men. The leading captive of satanic powers here, is not said to be at His descent, but at His ascension; so that no argument can be drawn from it for a descent to the abodes of Satan. Ac 2:27, 28, and Ro 10:7, favor the view of the reference being simply to His descent to Hades. So Pearson in Exposition of the Creed (Php 2:10).
10. all heavens–Greek, “all the heavens” (Heb 7:26; 4:14), Greek, “passed through the heavens” to the throne of God itself.
might fill–In Greek, the action is continued to the present time, both “might” and “may fill,” namely, with His divine presence and Spirit, not with His glorified body. “Christ, as God, is present everywhere; as glorified man, He can be present anywhere” [Ellicott].
11. Greek, emphatical. “Himself” by His supreme power. “It is He that gave,” &c.
gave some, apostles–Translate, “some to be apostles, and some to be prophets,” &c. The men who filled the office, no less than the office itself, were a divine gift [Eadie]. Ministers did not give themselves. Compare with the list here, 1Co 12:10, 28. As the apostles, prophets, and evangelists were special and extraordinary ministers, so “pastors and teachers” are the ordinary stated ministers of a particular flock, including, probably, the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. Evangelists were itinerant preachers like our missionaries, as Philip the deacon (Ac 21:8); as contrasted with stationary “pastors and teachers” (2Ti 4:5). The evangelist founded the Church; the teacher built it up in the faith already received. The “pastor” had the outward rule and guidance of the Church: the bishop. As to revelation, the “evangelist” testified infallibly of the past; the “prophet,” infallibly of the future. The prophet derived all from the Spirit; the evangelist, in the special case of the Four, recorded matter of fact, cognizable to the senses, under the Spirit’s guidance. No one form of Church polity as permanently unalterable is laid down in the New Testament though the apostolical order of bishops, or presbyters, and deacons, superintended by higher overseers (called bishops after the apostolic times), has the highest sanction of primitive usage. In the case of the Jews, a fixed model of hierarchy and ceremonial unalterably bound the people, most minutely detailed in the law. In the New Testament, the absence of minute directions for Church government and ceremonies, shows that a fixed model was not designed; the general rule is obligatory as to ceremonies, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (compare Article XXXIV, Church of England); and that a succession of ministers be provided, not self-called, but “called to the work by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation, to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard” [Article XXIII]. That the “pastors” here were the bishops and presbyters of the Church, is evident from Ac 20:28; 1Pe 5:1, 2, where the bishops’ and presbyters’ office is said to be “to feed” the flock. The term, “shepherd” or “pastor,” is used of guiding and governing and not merely instructing, whence it is applied to kings, rather than prophets or priests (Eze 34:23; Jer 23:4). Compare the names of princes compounded of “pharnas,” Hebrew, “pastor,” Holophernes, Tis-saphernes (compare Isa 44:28).
12. For–with a view to; the ultimate aim. “Unto.”
perfecting–The Greek implies correcting in all that is deficient, instructing and completing in number and all parts.
for–a different Greek word; the immediate object. Compare Ro 15:2, “Let every one … please his neighbor for his good unto edification.”
the ministry–Greek, “ministration”; without the article. The office of the ministry is stated in this verse. The good aimed at in respect to the Church (Eph 4:13). The way of growth (Eph 4:14-16).
edifying–that is, building up as the temple of the Holy Ghost.
13. come in–rather, “attain unto.” Alford expresses the Greek order, “Until we arrive all of us at the unity,” &c.
faith and … knowledge–Full unity of faith is then found, when all alike thoroughly know Christ, the object of faith, and that in His highest dignity as “the Son of God” [De Wette] (Eph 3:17, 19; 2Pe 1:5). Not even Paul counted himself to have fully “attained” (Php 3:12-14). Amidst the variety of the gifts and the multitude of the Church’s members, its “faith” is to be ONE: as contrasted with the state of “children carried about with EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE.” (Eph 4:14).
perfect man–unto the full-grown man (1Co 2:6; Php 3:15; Heb 5:14); the maturity of an adult; contrasted with children (Eph 4:14). Not “perfect men”; for the many members constitute but one Church joined to the one Christ.
stature, &c.–The standard of spiritual “stature” is “the fulness of Christ,” that is, which Christ has (Eph 1:23; 3:19; compare Ga 4:19); that the body should be worthy of the Head, the perfect Christ.
14. Translate, “To the end that”; the aim of the bestowal of gifts stated negatively, as in Eph 4:13 it is stated positively.
tossed to and fro–inwardly, even without wind; like billows of the sea. So the Greek. Compare Jas 1:6.
carried about–with every wind from without.
doctrine–“teaching.” The various teachings are the “winds” which keep them tossed on a sea of doubts (Heb 13:9; compare Mt 11:7).
by–Greek, “in”; expressing “the evil atmosphere in which the varying currents of doctrine exert their force” [Ellicott].
sleight–literally, “dice playing.” The player frames his throws of the dice so that the numbers may turn up which best suit his purpose.
of men–contrasted with Christ (Eph 4:13).
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive–Translate as Greek, “craftiness tending to the methodized system of deceit” (“the schemes of error”) [Alford]. Bengel takes “deceit,” or “error,” to stand for “the parent of error,” Satan (compare Eph 6:11); referring to his concealed mode of acting.
15. speaking the truth–Translate, “holding the truth”; “following the truth”; opposed to “error” or “deceit” (Eph 4:14).
in love–“Truth” is never to be sacrificed to so-called “charity”; yet it is to be maintained in charity. Truth in word and act, love in manner and spirit, are the Christian’s rule (compare Eph 4:21, 24).
grow up–from the state of “children” to that of “full-grown men.” There is growth only in the spiritually alive, not in the dead.
into him–so as to be more and more incorporated with Him, and become one with Him.
the head–(Eph 1:22).
16. (Col 2:19).
fitly joined together–“being fitly framed together,” as in Eph 2:21; all the parts being in their proper position, and in mutual relation.
compacted–implying firm consolidation.
by that which every joint supplieth–Greek, “by means of every joint of the supply”; joined with “maketh increase of the body,” not with “compacted.” “By every ministering (supplying) joint.” The joints are the points of union where the supply passes to the different members, furnishing the body with the materials of its growth.
effectual working–(Eph 1:19; 3:7). According to the effectual working of grace in each member (or else, rather, “according to each several member’s working”), proportioned to the measure of its need of supply.
every part–Greek, “each one part”; each individual part.
maketh increase–Translate, as the Greek is the same as Eph 4:15, “maketh (carrieth on) the growth of the body.”
17. therefore–resuming the exhortation which he had begun with, “I therefore beseech you that ye walk worthy,” &c. (Eph 4:1).
testify in the Lord–in whom (as our element) we do all things pertaining to the ministry (1Th 4:1 [Alford]; Ro 9:1).
henceforth … not–Greek, “no longer”; resumed from Eph 4:14.
other–Greek, “the rest of the Gentiles.”
in the vanity, &c.–as their element: opposed to “in the Lord.” “Vanity of mind” is the waste of the rational powers on worthless objects, of which idolatry is one of the more glaring instances. The root of it is departure from the knowledge of the true God (Eph 4:18, 19; Ro 1:21; 1Th 4:5).
18. More literally, “Being darkened in their understanding,” that is, their intelligence, or perceptions (compare Eph 5:8; Ac 26:18; 1Th 5:4, 5).
alienated–This and “darkened,” imply that before the fall they (in the person of their first father) had been partakers of life and light: and that they had revolted from the primitive revelation (compare Eph 2:12).
life of God–that life whereby God lives in His own people: as He was the life and light in Adam before the irruption of death and darkness into human nature; and as He is the life in the regenerate (Ga 2:20). “Spiritual life in believers is kindled from the life itself of God” [Bengel].
through–rather as Greek, “on account of the ignorance,” namely, of God. Wilful ignorance in the first instance, their fathers not “choosing to retain God in their knowledge.” This is the beginning point of their misery (Ac 17:30; Ro 1:21, 23, 28; 1Pe 1:14).
because of–“on account of.”
blindness–Greek, “hardness,” literally, the hardening of the skin so as not to be sensible of touch. Hence a soul’s callousness to feeling (Mr 3:5). Where there is spiritual “life” (“the life of God”) there is feeling; where there is not, there is “hardness.”
19. past feeling–senseless, shameless, hopeless; the ultimate result of a long process of “hardening,” or habit of sin (Eph 4:18). “Being past hope,” or despairing, is the reading of the Vulgate; though not so well supported as English Version reading, “past feeling,” which includes the absence of hope (Jer 2:25; 18:12).
given themselves over–In Ro 1:24 it is, “God gave them up to uncleanness.” Their giving themselves to it was punished in kind, God giving them up to it by withdrawing His preventing grace; their sin thus was made their punishment. They gave themselves up of their own accord to the slavery of their lust, to do all its pleasure, as captives who have ceased to strive with the foe. God gave them up to it, but not against their will; for they give themselves up to it [Zanchius].
lasciviousness–“wantonness” [Alford]. So it is translated in Ro 13:13; 2Pe 2:18. It does not necessarily include lasciviousness; but it means intemperate, reckless readiness for it, and for every self-indulgence. “The first beginnings of unchastity” [Grotius]. “Lawless insolence, and wanton caprice” [Trench].
to work all uncleanness–The Greek implies, “with a deliberate view to the working (as if it were their work or business, not a mere accidental fall into sin) of uncleanness of every kind.”
with greediness–Greek, “in greediness.” Uncleanness and greediness of gain often go hand in hand (Eph 5:3, 5; Col 3:5); though “greediness” here includes all kinds of self-seeking.
20. learned Christ–(Php 3:10). To know Christ Himself, is the great lesson of the Christian life: this the Ephesians began to learn at their conversion. “Christ,” in reference to His office, is here specified as the object of learning. “Jesus,” in Eph 4:21, as the person.
21. If so be that–not implying doubt; assuming what I have no reason to doubt, that
heard him–The “Him” is emphatic: “heard Himself,” not merely heard about Him.
taught by him–Greek, “taught IN Him,” that is, being in vital union with Him (Ro 16:7).
as the truth is in Jesus–Translate in connection with “taught”; “And in Him have been taught, according as is truth in Jesus.” There is no article in the Greek. “Truth” is therefore used in the most comprehensive sense, truth in its essence, and highest perfection, in Jesus; “if according as it is thus in Him, ye have been so taught in Him”; in contrast to “the vanity of mind of the Gentiles” (Eph 4:17; compare Joh 1:14, 17; 18:37). Contrast Joh 8:44.
22. That ye–following “Ye have been taught” (Eph 4:21).
concerning the former conversation–“in respect to your former way of life.”
the old man–your old unconverted nature (Ro 6:6).
is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts–rather, “which is being corrupted (‘perisheth,’ compare Ga 6:8, ‘corruption,’ that is, destruction) according to (that is, as might be expected from) the lusts of deceit.” Deceit is personified; lusts are its servants and tools. In contrast to “the holiness of the truth,” Eph 4:24, and “truth in Jesus,” Eph 4:21; and answering to Gentile “vanity,” Eph 4:17. Corruption and destruction are inseparably associated together. The man’s old-nature-lusts are his own executioners, fitting him more and more for eternal corruption and death.
23. be renewed–The Greek (ananeousthai) implies “the continued renewal in the youth of the new man.” A different Greek word (anakainousthai) implies “renewal from the old state.”
in the spirit of your mind–As there is no Greek for “in,” which there is at Eph 4:17, “in the vanity of their mind,” it is better to translate, “By the Spirit of your mind,” that is, by your new spiritual nature; the restored and divinely informed leading principle of the mind. The “spirit” of man in New Testament is only then used in its proper sense, as worthy of its place and governing functions, when it is one spirit with the Lord. The natural, or animal man, is described as “not having the Spirit” (Jude 19) [Alford]. Spirit is not in this sense attributed to the unregenerate (1Th 5:23).
24. put on the new man–Opposed to “the old man,” which is to be “put off” (Eph 4:22). The Greek here (kainon) is different from that for “re-new-ed” (Eph 4:23). Put on not merely a renovated nature, but a new, that is, altogether different nature, a changed nature (compare Note,, see on Col 3:10).
after God, &c.–Translate, “Which hath been created (once for all: so the Greek aorist means: in Christ, Eph 2:10; so that in each believer it has not to be created again, but to be put on) after (the image of) God” (Ge 1:27; Col 3:10; 1Pe 1:15), &c. God’s image in which the first Adam was originally created, is restored, to us far more gloriously in the second Adam, the image of the invisible God (2Co 4:4; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3).
in righteousness–“IN” it as the element of the renewed man.
true holiness–rather, as the Greek, “holiness of the truth”; holiness flowing from sincere following of “the truth of God” (Ro 1:25; 3:7; 15:8): opposed to “the lusts of deceit” (Greek, Eph 4:22); compare also Eph 4:21, “truth is in Jesus.” “Righteousness” is in relation to our fellow men, the second table of the law; “Holiness,” in relation to God, the first table; the religious observance of offices of piety (compare Lu 1:75). In the parallel (Col 3:10) it is, “renewed in knowledge after the image,” &c. As at Colosse the danger was from false pretenders to knowledge, the true “knowledge” which flows from renewal of the heart is dwelt on; so at Ephesus, the danger being from the corrupt morals prevalent around, the renewal in “holiness,” contrasted with the Gentile “uncleanness” (Eph 4:19), and “righteousness,” in contrast to “greediness,” is made prominent.
25. Wherefore–From the general character of “the new man,” there will necessarily result the particular features which he now details.
putting away–Greek, “having put away” once for all.
lying–“falsehood”: the abstract. “Speak ye truth each one with his neighbor,” is quoted, slightly changed, from Zec 8:16. For “to,” Paul quotes it “with,” to mark our inner connection with one another, as “members one of another” [Stier]. Not merely members of one body. Union to one another in Christ, not merely the external command, instinctively leads Christians to fulfil mutual duties. One member could not injure or deceive another, without injuring himself, as all have a mutual and common interest.
26. Be ye angry, and sin not–So the Septuagint, Ps 4:4. Should circumstances arise to call for anger on your part, let it be as Christ’s “anger” (Mr 3:5), without sin. Our natural feelings are not wrong when directed to their legitimate object, and when not exceeding due bounds. As in the future literal, so in the present spiritual, resurrection, no essential constituent is annihilated, but all that is a perversion of the original design is removed. Thus indignation at dishonor done to God, and wrong to man, is justifiable anger. Passion is sinful (derived from “passio,” suffering: implying that amidst seeming energy, a man is really passive, the slave of his anger, instead of ruling it).
let not the sun go down upon your wrath–“wrath” is absolutely forbidden; “anger” not so, though, like poison sometimes used as medicine, it is to be used with extreme caution. The sense is not, Your anger shall not be imputed to you if you put it away before nightfall; but “let no wrath (that is, as the Greek, personal ‘irritation’ or ‘exasperation’) mingle with your ‘anger,’ even though, the latter be righteous, [Trench, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]. “Put it away before sunset” (when the Jewish day began), is proverbial for put it away at once before another day begin (De 24:15); also before you part with your brother for the night, perhaps never in this world to meet again. So Jona, “Let not night and anger against anyone sleep with you, but go and conciliate the other party, though he have been the first to commit the offense.” Let not your “anger” at another’s wickedness verge into hatred, or contempt, or revenge [Vatablus].
27. Neither give place–that is, occasion, or scope, to the devil, by continuing in “wrath.” The keeping of anger through the darkness of night, is giving place to the devil, the prince of darkness (Eph 6:12).
28. Greek, “Let him that stealeth.” The imperfect or past tense is, however, mainly meant, though not to the exclusion of the present. “Let the stealing person steal no more.” Bandits frequented the mountains near Ephesus. Such are meant by those called “thieves” in the New Testament.
but rather–For it is not enough to cease from a sin, but the sinner must also enter on the path that is its very opposite [Chrysostom]. The thief, when repentant, should labor more than he would be called on to do, if he had never stolen.
let him labour–Theft and idleness go together.
the thing which is good–in contrast with theft, the thing which was evil in his past character.
with his hands–in contrast with his former thievish use of his hands.
that he may have to give–“that he may have wherewith to impart.” He who has stolen should exercise liberality beyond the restitution of what he has taken. Christians in general should make not selfish gain their aim in honest industry, but the acquisition of the means of greater usefulness to their fellow men; and the being independent of the alms of others. So Paul himself (Ac 20:35; 2Th 3:8) acted as he taught (1Th 4:11).
29. corrupt–literally, “insipid,” without “the salt of grace” (Col 4:6), so worthless and then becoming corrupt: included in “foolish talking” (Eph 5:4). Its opposite is “that which is good to edifying.”
that which, &c.–Greek, “whatever is good.”
use of edifying–literally, “for edifying of the need,” that is, for edifying where it is needed. Seasonably edifying; according as the occasion and present needs of the hearers require, now censure, at another time consolation. Even words good in themselves must be introduced seasonably lest by our fault they prove injurious instead of useful. Trench explains, Not vague generalities, which would suit a thousand other cases equally well, and probably equally ill: our words should be as nails fastened in a sure place, words suiting the present time and the present person, being “for the edifying of the occasion” (Col 4:6).
minister–Greek, “give.” The word spoken “gives grace to the hearers” when God uses it as His instrument for that purpose.
30. grieve not–A condescension to human modes of thought most touching. Compare “vexed His Holy Spirit” (Isa 63:10; Ps 78:40); “fretted me” (Eze 16:43: implying His tender love to us); and of hardened unbelievers, “resist the Holy Ghost” (Ac 7:51). This verse refers to believers, who grieve the Spirit by inconsistencies such as in the context are spoken of, corrupt or worthless conversation, &c.
whereby ye are sealed–rather, “wherein (or ‘in whom’) ye were sealed.” As in Eph 1:13, believers are said to be sealed “in” Christ, so here “in the Holy Spirit,” who is one with Christ, and who reveals Christ in the soul: the Greek implies that the sealing was done already once for all. It is the Father “BY” whom believers, as well as the Son Himself, were sealed (Joh 6:27). The Spirit is represented as itself the seal (Eph 1:13, for the image employed, see on Eph 1:13). Here the Spirit is the element IN which the believer is sealed, His gracious influences being the seal itself.
unto–kept safely against the day of redemption, namely, of the completion of redemption in the deliverance of the body as well as the soul from all sin and sorrow (Eph 1:14; Lu 21:28; Ro 8:23).
31. bitterness–both of spirit and of speech: opposed to “kind.”
wrath–passion for a time: opposed to “tender-hearted.” Whence Bengel translates for “wrath,” harshness.
anger–lasting resentment: opposed to “forgiving one another.”
clamour–compared by Chrysostom to a horse carrying anger for its rider: “Bridle the horse, and you dismount its rider.” “Bitterness” begets “wrath”; “wrath,” “anger”; “anger,” “clamor”; and “clamor,” the more chronic “evil-speaking,” slander, insinuations, and surmises of evil. “Malice” is the secret root of all: “fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable” [Chrysostom].
32. (Lu 7:42; Col 3:12).
even as–God hath shown Himself “kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to you”; it is but just that you in turn shall be so to your fellow men, who have not erred against you in the degree that you have erred against God (Mt 18:33).
God for Christ’s sake–rather as Greek, “God in Christ” (2Co 5:19). It is in Christ that God vouchsafes forgiveness to us. It cost God the death of His Son, as man, to forgive us. It costs us nothing to forgive our fellow man.
hath forgiven–rather as Greek, “forgave you.” God has, once for all, forgiven sin in Christ, as a past historical fact.
Eph 5:1-33. Exhortations to Love: And against Carnal Lusts and Communications. Circumspection in Walk: Redeeming the Time: Being Filled with the Spirit: Singing to the Lord with Thankfulness: The Wife’s Duty to the Husband Rests on that of the Church to Christ.
1. therefore–seeing that “God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32).
followers–Greek, “imitators” of God, in respect to “love” (Eph 5:2): God’s essential character (1Jo 4:16).
as dear children–Greek, “as children beloved”; to which Eph 5:2 refers, “As Christ also loved us” (1Jo 4:19). “We are sons of men, when we do ill; sons of God, when we do well” [Augustine, on Psalm 52]; (compare Mt 5:44, 45, 48). Sonship infers an absolute necessity of imitation, it being vain to assume the title of son without any similitude of the Father [Pearson].
2. And–in proof that you are so.
walk in love–resuming Eph 4:1, “walk worthy of the vocation.”
as Christ … loved us–From the love of the Father he passes to the love of the Son, in whom God most endearingly manifests His love to us.
given himself for us–Greek, “given Himself up (namely, to death, Ga 2:20) for us,” that is, in our behalf: not here vicarious substitution, though that is indirectly implied, “in our stead.” The offerer, and the offering that He offered, were one and the same (Joh 15:13; Ro 5:8).
offering and a sacrifice–“Offering” expresses generally His presenting Himself to the Father, as the Representative undertaking the cause of the whole of our lost race (Ps 40:6-8), including His life of obedience; though not excluding His offering of His body for us (Heb 10:10). It is usually an unbloody offering, in the more limited sense. “Sacrifice” refers to His death for us exclusively. Christ is here, in reference to Ps 40:6 (quoted again in Heb 10:5), represented as the antitype of all the offerings of the law, whether the unbloody or bloody, eucharistical or propitiatory.
for a sweet-smelling savour–Greek, “for an odor of a sweet smell,” that is, God is well pleased with the offering on the ground of its sweetness, and so is reconciled to us (Eph 1:6; Mt 3:17; 2Co 5:18, 19; Heb 10:6-17). The ointment compounded of principal spices, poured upon Aaron’s head, answers to the variety of the graces by which He was enabled to “offer Himself a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savor.” Another type, or prophecy by figure, was “the sweet savor” (“savor of rest,” Margin) which God smelled in Noah’s sacrifice (Ge 8:21). Again, as what Christ is, believers also are (1Jo 4:17), and ministers are: Paul says (2Co 2:17) “we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ.”
3. once named–Greek, “Let it not be even named” (Eph 5:4, 12). “Uncleanness” and “covetousness” are taken up again from Eph 4:19. The two are so closely allied that the Greek for “covetousness” (pleonexia) is used sometimes in Scripture, and often in the Greek Fathers, for sins of impurity. The common principle is the longing to fill one’s desire with material objects of sense, outside of God. The expression, “not be even named,” applies better to impurity, than to “covetousness.”
4. filthiness–obscenity in act or gesture.
foolish talking–the talk of fools, which is folly and sin together. The Greek of it, and of “filthiness,” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.
nor–rather, “or” (compare Eph 5:3).
jesting–Greek, “eutrapelia”; found nowhere else in the New Testament: implying strictly that versatility which turns about and adapts itself, without regard to principle, to the shifting circumstances of the moment, and to the varying moods of those with whom it may deal. Not scurrile buffoonery, but refined “persiflage” and “badinage,” for which Ephesus was famed [Plautus, A Boastful Soldier, 3.1,42-52], and which, so far from being censured, was and is thought by the world a pleasant accomplishment. In Col 3:8, “filthy communication” refers to the foulness; “foolish talking,” to the folly; “jesting,” to the false refinement (and trifling witticism [Tittmann]) Of discourse unseasoned with the salt of grace [Trench].
not convenient–“unseemly”; not such “as become saints” (Eph 5:3).
rather giving of thanks–a happy play on sounds in Greek, “eucharistia” contrasted with “eutrapelia”; refined “jesting” and subtle humor sometimes offend the tender feelings of grace; “giving of thanks” gives that real cheerfulness of spirit to believers which the worldly try to get from “jesting” (Eph 5:19, 20; Jas 5:13).
5. this ye know–The oldest manuscripts read, “Of this ye are sure knowing”; or as Alford, “This ye know being aware.”
covetous … idolater–(Col 3:5). The best reading may be translated, That is to say, literally, which is (in other words) an idolater. Paul himself had forsaken all for Christ (2Co 6:10; 11:27). Covetousness is worship of the creature instead of the Creator, the highest treason against the King of kings (1Sa 15:3; Mt 6:24; Php 3:19; 1Jo 2:15).
hath–The present implies the fixedness of the exclusion, grounded on the eternal verities of that kingdom [Alford].
of Christ and of God–rather, as one Greek article is applied to both, “of Christ and God,” implying their perfect oneness, which is consistent only with the doctrine that Christ is God (compare 2Th 1:12; 1Ti 5:21; 6:13).
6. vain–empty, unreal words, namely, palliations of “uncleanness,” Eph 5:3, 4; Isa 5:20 (that it is natural to indulge in love), “covetousness” (that it is useful to society that men should pursue gain), and “jesting” (that it is witty and clever, and that God will not so severely punish for such things).
because of these things–uncleanness, covetousness, &c. (Eph 5:3-5).
cometh–present, not merely “shall come.” Is as sure as if already come.
children–rather, “sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2, 3). The children of unbelief in doctrine (De 32:20) are “children of disobedience” in practice, and these again are “children of wrath.”
7. Here fellowship with wicked workers is forbidden; in Eph 5:11, with their wicked works.
8. sometimes–“once.” The emphasis is on “were.” Ye ought to have no fellowship with sin, which is darkness, for your state as darkness is now PAST. Stronger than “in darkness” (Ro 2:19).
light–not merely “enlightened”; but light enlightening others (Eph 5:13).
in–in union with the Lord, who is THE LIGHT.
children of light–not merely “of the light”; just as “children of disobedience” is used on the opposite side; those whose distinguishing characteristic is light. Pliny, a heathen writing to Trajan, bears unwilling testimony to the extraordinary purity of Christians’ lives, contrasted with the people around them.
9. fruit of the Spirit–taken by transcribers from Ga 5:22. The true reading is that of the oldest manuscripts, “The fruit of THE LIGHT”; in contrast with “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:11). This verse is parenthetic. Walk as children of light, that is, in all good works and words, “FOR the fruit of the light is [borne] in [Alford; but Bengel, ‘consists in’] all goodness [opposed to ‘malice,’ Eph 4:31], righteousness [opposed to ‘covetousness,’ Eph 5:3] and truth [opposed to ‘lying,’ Eph 4:25].”
10. Proving–construed with “walk” (Eph 5:8; Ro 12:1, 2). As we prove a coin by the eye and the ear, and by using it, so by accurate and continued study, and above all by practice and experimental trial, we may prove or test “what is acceptable unto the Lord.” This is the office of “light,” of which believers are “children,” to manifest what each thing is, whether sightly or unsightly.
11. unfruitful works of darkness–Sins are terminated in themselves, and therefore are called “works,” not “fruits” (Ga 5:19, 22). Their only fruit is that which is not in a true sense fruit (De 32:32), namely, “death” (Ro 6:21; Ga 6:8). Plants cannot bear “fruit” in the absence of light. Sin is “darkness,” and its parent is the prince of darkness (Eph 6:12). Graces, on the other hand, as flourishing in “the light,” are reproductive, and abound in fruits; which, as harmoniously combining in one whole, are termed (in the singular) “the FRUIT of the Spirit” (Eph 5:9).
rather, &c.–Translate as Greek, “rather even reprove them” (compare Mt 5:14-16). Not only “have no fellowship, but even reprove them,” namely, in words, and in your deeds, which, shining with “the light,” virtually reprove all that is contrary to light (Eph 5:13; Joh 3:19-21). “Have no fellowship,” does not imply that we can avoid all intercourse (1Co 5:10), but “avoid such fellowship as will defile yourselves”; just as light, though it touch filth, is not soiled by it; nay, as light detects it, so, “even reprove sin.”
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.”
13. that are reproved–rather, “when they are reproved,” namely, by you (Eph 5:11).
whatsoever doth make manifest–rather, “everything that is (that is, suffers itself to be) made manifest (or ‘shone upon,’ namely, by your ‘reproving,’ Eph 5:11) is (thenceforth no longer ‘darkness,’ Eph 5:8, but) light.” The devil and the wicked will not suffer themselves to be made manifest by the light, but love darkness, though outwardly the light shines round them. Therefore, “light” has no transforming effect on them, so that they do not become light (Joh 3:19, 20). But, says the apostle, you being now light yourselves (Eph 5:8), by bringing to light through reproof those who are in darkness, will convert them to light. Your consistent lives and faithful reproofs will be your “armor of light” (Ro 13:12) in making an inroad on the kingdom of darkness.
14. Wherefore–referring to the whole foregoing argument (Eph 5:8, 11, 13). Seeing that light (spiritual) dispels the pre-existing darkness, He (God) saith … (compare the same phrase, Eph 4:8).
Awake–The reading of all the oldest manuscripts is “Up!” or, “Rouse thee!” a phrase used in stirring men to activity. The words are a paraphrase of Isa 60:1, 2, not an exact quotation. The word “Christ,” shows that in quoting the prophecy, he views it in the light thrown on it by its Gospel fulfilment. As Israel is called on to “awake” from its previous state of “darkness” and “death” (Isa 59:10; 60:2), for that her Light is come; so the Church, and each individual is similarly called to awake. Believers are called on to “awake” out of sleep; unbelievers, to “arise” from the dead (compare Mt 25:5; Ro 13:11; 1Th 5:6, with Eph 2:1).
Christ–“the true light,” “the Sun of righteousness.”
give thee light–rather, as Greek, “shall shine upon thee” (so enabling thee by being “made manifest” to become, and be, by the very fact, “light,” Eph 5:13; then being so “enlightened,” Eph 1:18, thou shalt be able, by “reproving,” to enlighten others).
15. that–rather as Greek, “See how ye walk,” &c. The double idea is compressed into one sentence: “See (take heed) how ye walk,” and “See that ye walk circumspectly.” The manner, as well as the act itself, is included. See how ye are walking, with a view to your being circumspect (literally, accurate, exact) in your walk. Compare Col 4:5, “Walk in wisdom (answering to ‘as wise’ here) toward them that are without” (answering to “circumspectly,” that is, correctly, in relation to the unbelievers around, not giving occasion of stumbling to any, but edifying all by a consistent walk).
not as fools–Greek, “not as unwise, but as wise.”
16. Redeeming the time–(Col 4:5). Greek, “Buying up for yourselves the seasonable time” (whenever it occurs) of good to yourselves and to others. Buying off from the vanities of “them that are without” (Col 4:5), and of the “unwise” (here in Ephesians), the opportune time afforded to you for the work of God. In a narrower sense, special favorable seasons for good, occasionally presenting themselves, are referred to, of which believers ought diligently to avail themselves. This constitutes true “wisdom” (Eph 5:15). In a larger sense, the whole season from the time that one is spiritually awakened, is to be “redeemed” from vanity for God (compare 2Co 6:2; 1Pe 4:2-4). “Redeem” implies the preciousness of the opportune season, a jewel to be bought at any price. Wahl explains, “Redeeming for yourselves (that is, availing yourselves of) the opportunity (offered you of acting aright), and commanding the time as a master does his servant.” Tittmann, “Watch the time, and make it your own so as to control it; as merchants look out for opportunities, and accurately choose out the best goods; serve not the time, but command it, and it shall do what you approve.” So Pindar [Pythia, 4.509], “The time followed him as his servant, and was not as a runaway slave.”
because the days are evil–The days of life in general are so exposed to evil, as to make it necessary to make the most of the seasonable opportunity so long as it lasts (Eph 6:13; Ge 47:9; Ps 49:5; Ec 11:2; 12:1; Joh 12:35). Besides, there are many special evil days (in persecution, sickness, &c.) when the Christian is laid by in silence; therefore he needs the more to improve the seasonable times afforded to him (Am 5:13), which Paul perhaps alludes to.
17. Wherefore–seeing that ye need to walk so circumspectly, choosing and using the right opportunity of good.
unwise–a different Greek word from that in Eph 5:15. Translate, “foolish,” or “senseless.”
understanding–not merely knowing as a matter of fact (Lu 12:47), but knowing with understanding.
the will of the Lord–as to how each opportunity is to be used. The Lord’s will, ultimately, is our “sanctification” (1Th 4:3); and that “in every thing,” meantime, we should “give thanks” (1Th 5:18; compare above, Eph 5:10).
18. excess–worthless, ruinous, reckless prodigality.
wherein–not in the wine itself when used aright (1Ti 5:23), but in the “excess” as to it.
but be filled with the Spirit–The effect in inspiration was that the person was “filled” with an ecstatic exhilaration, like that caused by wine; hence the two are here connected (compare Ac 2:13-18). Hence arose the abstinence from wine of many of the prophets, for example, John the Baptist, namely, in order to keep distinct before the world the ecstasy caused by the Spirit, from that caused by wine. So also in ordinary Christians the Spirit dwells not in the mind that seeks the disturbing influences of excitement, but in the well-balanced prayerful mind. Such a one expresses his joy, not in drunken or worldly songs, but in Christian hymns of thankfulness.
19. (Col 3:16).
to yourselves–“to one another.” Hence soon arose the antiphonal or responsive chanting of which Pliny writes to Trajan: “They are wont on a fixed day to meet before daylight [to avoid persecution] and to recite a hymn among themselves by turns, to Christ, as if being God.” The Spirit gives true eloquence; wine, a spurious eloquence.
psalms–generally accompanied by an instrument.
hymns–in direct praise to God (compare Ac 16:25; 1Co 14:26; Jas 5:13).
songs–the general term for lyric pieces; “spiritual” is added to mark their being here restricted to sacred subjects, though not merely to direct praises of God, but also containing exhortations, prophecies, &c. Contrast the drunken “songs,” Am 8:10.
making melody–Greek, “playing and singing with an instrument.”
in your heart–not merely with the tongue; but the serious feeling of the heart accompanying the singing of the lips (compare 1Co 14:15; Ps 47:7). The contrast is between the heathen and the Christian practice, “Let your songs be not the drinking songs of heathen feasts, but psalms and hymns; and their accompaniment, not the music of the lyre, but the melody of the heart” [Conybeare and Howson].
to the Lord–See Pliny’s letter quoted above: “To Christ as God.”
20. thanks … for all things–even for adversities; also for blessings, unknown as well as known (Col 3:17; 1Th 5:18).
unto God and the Father–the Fountain of every blessing in Creation, Providence, Election, and Redemption.
Lord Jesus Christ–by whom all things, even distresses, become ours (Ro 8:35, 37; 1Co 3:20-23).
21. (Php 2:3; 1Pe 5:5.) Here he passes from our relations to God, to those which concern our fellow men.
in the fear of God–All the oldest manuscripts and authorities read, “in the fear of Christ.” The believer passes from under the bondage of the law as a letter, to be “the servant of Christ” (1Co 7:22), which, through the instinct of love to Him, is really to be “the Lord’s freeman”; for he is “under the law to Christ” (1Co 9:21; compare Joh 8:36). Christ, not the Father (Joh 5:22), is to be our judge. Thus reverential fear of displeasing Him is the motive for discharging our relative duties as Christians (1Co 10:22; 2Co 5:11; 1Pe 2:13).
22. (Eph 6:9.) The Church’s relation to Christ in His everlasting purpose, is the foundation and archetype of the three greatest of earthly relations, that of husband and wife (Eph 5:22-33), parent and child (Eph 6:1-4), master and servant (Eph 6:4-9). The oldest manuscripts omit “submit yourselves”; supplying it from Eph 5:21, “Ye wives (submitting yourselves) unto your own husbands.” “Your own” is an argument for submissiveness on the part of the wives; it is not a stranger, but your own husbands whom you are called on to submit unto (compare Ge 3:16; 1Co 7:2; 14:34; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1Pe 3:1-7). Those subject ought to submit themselves, of whatever kind their superiors are. “Submit” is the term used of wives: “obey,” of children (Eph 6:1), as there is a greater equality between wives and husbands, than between children and parents.
as unto the Lord–Submissiveness is rendered by the wife to the husband under the eye of Christ, and so is rendered to Christ Himself. The husband stands to the wife in the relation that the Lord does to the Church, and this is to be the ground of her submission: though that submission is inferior in kind and degree to that which she owes Christ (Eph 5:24).
23. (1Co 11:3.)
even as–Greek, “as also.”
and he is–The oldest manuscripts read, “Himself (being) Saviour,” omitting “and,” and “is.” In Christ’s case, the Headship is united with, nay gained by, His having SAVED the body in the process of redemption; so that (Paul implies) I am not alleging Christ’s Headship as one entirely identical with that other, for He has a claim to it, and office in it, peculiar to Himself [Alford]. The husband is not saviour of the wife, in which particular Christ excels; hence, “But” (Eph 5:24) follows [Bengel].
24. Therefore–Translate, as Greek, “But,” or “Nevertheless,” that is, though there be the difference of headships mentioned in Eph 5:23, nevertheless, thus far they are one, namely, in the subjection or submission (the same Greek stands for “is subject,” as for “submit,” Eph 5:21, 22) of the Church to Christ, being the prototype of that of the wife to the husband.
their own–not in most of the oldest manuscripts, and not needed by the argument.
in every thing–appertaining to a husband’s legitimate authority; “in the Lord” (Col 3:18); everything not contrary to God.
25. “Thou hast seen the measure of obedience; now hear also the measure of love. Do you wish your wife to obey you, as the Church is to obey Christ? Then have a solicitude for her as Christ had for the Church (Eph 5:23, “Himself the Saviour of the body”); and “if it be necessary to give thy life for her, or to be cut in ten thousand pieces, or to endure any other suffering whatever, do not refuse it; and if you suffer thus, not even so do you do what Christ has done; for you indeed do so being already united to her, but He did so for one that treated Him with aversion and hatred. As, therefore, He brought to His feet one that so treated Him, and that even wantonly spurned Him, by much tenderness of regard, not by threats, insults, and terror: so also do you act towards your wife, and though you see her disdainful and wantonly wayward, you will be able to bring her to your feet by much thoughtfulness for her, by love, by kindness. For no bound is more sovereign in binding than such bonds, especially in the case of husband and wife. For one may constrain a servant by fear, though not even he is so to be bound to you; for he may readily run away. But the companion of your life, the mother of your children, the basis of all your joy, you ought to bind to you, not by fear and threats, but by love and attachment” [Chrysostom].
gave himself–Greek, “gave Himself up.”
for it–Translate, “for her.” The relation of the Church to Christ is the ground of Christianity’s having raised woman to her due place in the social scale, from which she was, and is, excluded in heathen lands.
26. sanctify–that is, consecrate her to God. Compare Joh 17:19, meaning, “I devote Myself as a holy sacrifice, that My disciples also may be devoted or consecrated as holy in (through) the truth” [Neander] (Heb 2:11; 10:10; 13:12 see on Heb 10:10).
and cleanse–rather, as Greek, “cleansing,” without the “and.”
with the washing of water–rather as Greek, “with,” or “by the laver of the water,” namely, the baptismal water. So it ought to be translated in Tit 3:5, the only other passage in the New Testament where it occurs. As the bride passed through a purifying bath before marriage, so the Church (compare Re 21:2). He speaks of baptism according to its high ideal and design, as if the inward grace accompanied the outward rite; hence he asserts of outward baptism whatever is involved in a believing appropriation of the divine truths it symbolizes, and says that Christ, by baptism, has purified the Church [Neander] (1Pe 3:21).
by the word–Greek, “IN the word.” To be joined with “cleansing it,” or “her.” The “word of faith” (Ro 10:8, 9, 17), of which confession is made in baptism, and which carries the real cleansing (Joh 15:3; 17:17) and regenerating power (1Pe 1:23; 3:21) [Alford]. So Augustine [Tract 80, in John], “Take away the word, and what is the water save water? Add the word to the element, and it becomes a sacrament, being itself as it were the visible word.” The regenerating efficacy of baptism is conveyed in, and by, the divine word alone.
27. he–The oldest manuscripts and authorities read, “That He might Himself present unto Himself the Church glorious,” namely, as a bride (2Co 11:2). Holiness and glory are inseparable. “Cleansing” is the necessary preliminary to both. Holiness is glory internal; glory is holiness shining forth outwardly. The laver of baptism is the vehicle, but the word is the nobler and true instrument of the cleansing [Bengel]. It is Christ that prepares the Church with the necessary ornaments of grace, for presentation to Himself, as the Bridegroom at His coming again (Mt 25:1, &c.; Re 19:7; 21:2).
not having spot–(So 4:7). The visible Church now contains clean and unclean together, like Noah’s ark; like the wedding room which contained some that had, and others that had not, the wedding garment (Mt 22:10-14; compare 2Ti 2:20); or as the good and bad fish are taken in the same net because it cannot discern the bad from the good, the fishermen being unable to know what kind of fish the nets have taken under the waves. Still the Church is termed “holy” in the creed, in reference to her ideal and ultimate destination. When the Bridegroom comes, the bride shall be presented to Him wholly without spot, the evil being cut off from the body for ever (Mt 13:47-50). Not that there are two churches, one with bad and good intermingled, another in which there are good alone; but one and the same Church in relation to different times, now with good and evil together, hereafter with good alone [Pearson].
28. Translate, “So ought husbands also (thus the oldest manuscripts read) to love their own (compare Note, see on Eph 5:22) wives as their own bodies.”
He that loveth his wife loveth himself–So there is the same love and the same union of body between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:30, 32).
29. For–Supply, and we all love ourselves: “For no man,” &c.
his own flesh–(Eph 5:31, end).
nourisheth–Greek, “nourisheth it up,” namely, to maturity. “Nourisheth,” refers to food and internal sustenance; “cherisheth,” to clothing and external fostering.
even as–Translate, “even as also.”
the Lord–The oldest manuscripts read, “Christ.” Ex 21:10 prescribes three duties to the husband. The two former (food and raiment) are here alluded to in a spiritual sense, by “nourisheth and cherisheth”; the third “duty of marriage” is not added in consonance with the holy propriety of Scripture language: its antitype is, “know the Lord” (Ho 2:19, 20) [Bengel].
30. For–Greek, “Because” (1Co 6:15). Christ nourisheth and cherisheth the Church as being of one flesh with Him. Translate, “Because we are members of His body (His literal body), being OF His flesh and of His bones” [Alford] (Ge 2:23, 24). The Greek expresses, “Being formed out of” or “of the substance of His flesh.” Adam’s deep sleep, wherein Eve was formed from out of his opened side, is an emblem of Christ’s death, which was the birth of the Spouse, the Church. Joh 12:24; 19:34, 35, to which Eph 5:25-27 allude, as implying atonement by His blood, and sanctification by the “water,” answering to that which flowed from His side (compare also Joh 7:38, 39; 1Co 6:11). As Adam gave Eve a new name, Hebrew, “Isha,” “woman,” formed from his own rib, Ish, “man,” signifying her formation from him, so Christ, Re 2:17; 3:12. Ge 2:21, 23, 24 puts the bones first because the reference there is to the natural structure. But Paul is referring to the flesh of Christ. It is not our bones and flesh, but “we” that are spiritually propagated (in our soul and spirit now, and in the body hereafter, regenerated) from the manhood of Christ which has flesh and bones. We are members of His glorified body (Joh 6:53). The two oldest existing manuscripts, and Coptic or Memphitic version, omit “of His flesh and of His bones”; the words may have crept into the text through the Margin from Ge 2:23, Septuagint. However, Irenæus, 294, and the old Latin and Vulgate versions, with some good old manuscripts, have them.
31. For–The propagation of the Church from Christ, as that of Eve from Adam, is the foundation of the spiritual marriage. The natural marriage, wherein “a man leaves father and mother (the oldest manuscripts omit ‘his’) and is joined unto his wife,” is not the principal thing meant here, but the spiritual marriage represented by it, and on which it rests, whereby Christ left the Father’s bosom to woo to Himself the Church out of a lost world: Eph 5:32 proves this: His earthly mother as such, also, He holds in secondary account as compared with His spiritual Bride (Lu 2:48, 49; 8:19-21; 11:27, 28). He shall again leave His Father’s abode to consummate the union (Mt 25:1-10; Re 19:7).
they two shall be one flesh–So the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, &c., read (Ge 2:24), instead of “they shall be one flesh.” So Mt 19:5. In natural marriage, husband and wife combine the elements of one perfect human being: the one being incomplete without the other. So Christ, as God-man, is pleased to make the Church, the body, a necessary adjunct to Himself, the Head. He is the archetype of the Church, from whom and according to whom, as the pattern, she is formed. He is her Head, as the husband is of the wife (Ro 6:5; 1Co 11:3; 15:45). Christ will never allow any power to sever Himself and His bride, indissolubly joined (Mt 19:6; Joh 10:28, 29; 13:1).
32. Rather, “This mystery is a great one.” This profound truth, beyond man’s power of discovering, but now revealed, namely, of the spiritual union of Christ and the Church, represented by the marriage union, is a great one, of deep import. See on Eph 5:30. So “mystery” is used of a divine truth not to be discovered save by revelation of God (Ro 11:25; 1Co 15:51). The Vulgate wrongly translates, “This is a great sacrament,” which is made the plea by the Romish Church (in spite of the blunder having been long ago exposed by their own commentators, Cajetan and Estius) for making marriage a sacrament; it is plain not marriage in general, but that of Christ and the Church, is what is pronounced to be a “great mystery,” as the words following prove, “I [emphatic] say it in regard to Christ and to the Church” (so the Greek is best translated). “I, while I quote these words out of Scripture, use them in a higher sense” [Conybeare and Howson].
33. Nevertheless–not to pursue further the mystical meaning of marriage. Translate, as Greek, “Do ye also (as Christ does) severally each one so love,” &c. The words, “severally each one,” refer to them in their individual capacity, contrasted with the previous collective view of the members of the Church as the bride of Christ.
Eph 6:1-24. Mutual Duties of Parents and Children: Masters and Servants: Our Life a Warfare: The Spiritual Armour Needed against Spiritual Foes. Conclusion.
1. obey–stronger than the expression as to wives, “submitting,” or “being subject” (Eph 5:21). Obedience is more unreasoning and implicit; submission is the willing subjection of an inferior in point of order to one who has a right to command.
in the Lord–Both parents and children being Christians “in the Lord,” expresses the element in which the obedience is to take place, and the motive to obedience. In Col 3:20, it is, “Children, obey your parents in all things.” This clause, “in the Lord,” would suggest the due limitation of the obedience required (Ac 5:29; compare on the other hand, the abuse, Mr 7:11-13).
right–Even by natural law we should render obedience to them from whom we have derived life.
2. Here the authority of revealed law is added to that of natural law.
which is … promise–The “promise” is not made the main motive to obedience, but an incidental one. The main motive is, because it is God’s will (De 5:16, “Honor thy father and mother, as the Lord thy God hath COMMANDED thee”); and that it is so peculiarly, is shown by His accompanying it “with a promise.”
first–in the decalogue with a special promise. The promise in the second commandment is a general one. Their duty is more expressly prescribed to children than to parents; for love descends rather than ascends [Bengel]. This verse proves the law in the Old Testament is not abolished.
3. long on the earth–In Ex 20:12, “long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” which Paul adapts to Gospel times, by taking away the local and limited reference peculiar to the Jews in Canaan. The godly are equally blessed in every land, as the Jews were in the land which God gave them. This promise is always fulfilled, either literally, or by the substitution of a higher blessing, namely, one spiritual and eternal (Job 5:26; Pr 10:27). The substance and essence of the law are eternally in force: its accidents alone (applying to Israel of old) are abolished (Ro 6:15).
4. fathers–including mothers; the fathers are specified as being the fountains of domestic authority. Fathers are more prone to passion in relation to their children than mothers, whose fault is rather over-indulgence.
provoke not–irritate not, by vexatious commands, unreasonable blame, and uncertain temper [Alford]. Col 3:21, “lest they be discouraged.”
nurture–Greek, “discipline,” namely, training by chastening in act where needed (Job 5:17; Heb 12:7).
admonition–training by words (De 6:7; “catechise,” Pr 22:6, Margin), whether of encouragement, or remonstrance, or reproof, according as is required [Trench]. Contrast 1Sa 3:13, Margin.
of the Lord–such as the Lord approves, and by His Spirit dictates.
5. Servants–literally, “slaves.”
masters according to the flesh–in contrast to your true and heavenly Master (Eph 6:4). A consolatory him that the mastership to which they were subject, was but for a time [Chrysostom]; and that their real liberty was still their own (1Co 7:22).
fear and trembling–not slavish terror, but (See on 1Co 2:3; 2Co 7:15) an anxious eagerness to do your duty, and a fear of displeasing, as great as is produced in the ordinary slave by “threatenings” (Eph 6:9).
singleness–without double-mindedness, or “eye service” (Eph 6:6), which seeks to please outwardly, without the sincere desire to make the master’s interest at all times the first consideration (1Ch 29:17; Mt 6:22, 23; Lu 11:34). “Simplicity.”
6. (Col 3:22). Seeking to please their masters only so long as these have their eyes on them: as Gehazi was a very different man in his master’s presence from what he was in his absence (2Ki 5:1-18).
men-pleasers–not Christ-pleasers (compare Ga 1:10; 1Th 2:4).
doing the will of God–the unseen but ever present Master: the best guarantee for your serving faithfully your earthly master alike when present and when absent.
from the heart–literally, soul (Ps 111:1; Ro 13:5).
7. good will–expressing his feeling towards his master; as “doing the will of God from the heart” expresses the source of that feeling (Col 3:23). “Good will” is stated by Xenophon [Economics] to be the principal virtue of a slave towards his master: a real regard to his master’s interest as if his own, a good will which not even a master’s severity can extinguish.
8. any man doeth–Greek, “any man shall have done,” that is, shall be found at the Lord’s coming to have done.
the same–in full payment, in heaven’s currency.
shall … receive–(2Co 5:10; Col 3:25; but all of grace, Lu 17:10).
bond or free–(1Co 7:22; 12:13; Ga 3:28; Col 3:11). Christ does not regard such distinctions in His present dealings of grace, or in His future judgment. The slave that has acted faithfully for the Lord’s sake to his master, though the latter may not repay his faithfulness, shall have the Lord for his Paymaster. So the freeman who has done good for the Lord’s sake, though man may not pay him, has the Lord for his Debtor (Pr 19:17).
9. the same things–Mutatis mutandis. Show the same regard to God’s will, and to your servants’ well-being, in your relation to them, as they ought to have in their relation to you. Love regulates the duties both of servants and masters, as one and the same light attempers various colors. Equality of nature and faith is superior to distinctions of rank [Bengel]. Christianity makes all men brothers: compare Le 25:42, 43; De 15:12; Jer 34:14 as to how the Hebrews were bound to treat their brethren in service; much more ought Christians to act with love.
threatening–Greek, “the threatening” which masters commonly use. “Masters” in the Greek, is not so strong a term as “despots”: it implies authority, but not absolute domination.
your Master also–The oldest manuscripts read, “the Master both of them and you”: “their Master and yours.” This more forcibly brings out the equality of slaves and masters in the sight of God. Seneca [Thyestes, 607], says, “Whatever an inferior dreads from you, this a superior Master threatens yourselves with: every authority here is under a higher above.” As you treat your servants, so will He treat you.
neither … respect of persons–He will not, in judging, acquit thee because thou art a master, or condemn him because he is a servant (Ac 10:34; Ro 2:11; Ga 2:6; Col 3:25; 1Pe 1:17). Derived from De 10:17; 2Ch 19:7.
10. my brethren–Some of the oldest manuscripts omit these words. Some with Vulgate retain them. The phrase occurs nowhere else in the Epistle (see, however, Eph 6:23); if genuine, it is appropriate here in the close of the Epistle, where he is urging his fellow soldiers to the good fight in the Christian armor. Most of the oldest manuscripts for “finally,” read, “henceforward,” or “from henceforth” (Ga 6:17).
be strong–Greek, “be strengthened.”
in the power of his might–Christ’s might: as in Eph 1:19, it is the Father’s might.
11. the whole armour–the armor of light (Ro 13:12); on the right hand and left (2Co 6:7). The panoply offensive and defensive. An image readily suggested by the Roman armory, Paul being now in Rome. Repeated emphatically, Eph 6:13. In Ro 13:14 it is, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”; in putting on Him, and the new man in Him, we put on “the whole armor of God.” No opening at the head, the feet, the heart, the belly, the eye, the ear, or the tongue, is to be given to Satan. Believers have once for all overcome him; but on the ground of this fundamental victory gained over him, they are ever again to fight against and overcome him, even as they who once die with Christ have continually to mortify their members upon earth (Ro 6:2-14; Col 3:3, 5).
of God–furnished by God; not our own, else it would not stand (Ps 35:1-3). Spiritual, therefore, and mighty through God, not carnal (2Co 10:4).
wiles–literally, “schemes sought out” for deceiving (compare 2Co 11:14).
the devil–the ruling chief of the foes (Eph 6:12) organized into a kingdom of darkness (Mt 12:26), opposed to the kingdom of light.
12. Greek, “For our wrestling (‘the wrestling’ in which we are engaged) is not against flesh,” &c. Flesh and blood foes are Satan’s mere tools, the real foe lurking behind them is Satan himself, with whom our conflict is. “Wrestling” implies that it is a hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot struggle for the mastery: to wrestle successfully with Satan, we must wrestle with God in irresistible prayer like Jacob (Ge 32:24-29; Ho 12:4). Translate, “The principalities … the powers” (Eph 1:21; Col 1:16; see on Eph 3:10). The same grades of powers are specified in the case of the demons here, as in that of angels there (compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24; Col 2:15). The Ephesians had practiced sorcery (Ac 19:19), so that he appropriately treats of evil spirits in addressing them. The more clearly any book of Scripture, as this, treats of the economy of the kingdom of light, the more clearly does it set forth the kingdom of darkness. Hence, nowhere does the satanic kingdom come more clearly into view than in the Gospels which treat of Christ, the true Light.
rulers of the darkness of this world–Greek, “age” or “course of the world.” But the oldest manuscripts omit “of world.” Translate, “Against the world rulers of this (present) darkness” (Eph 2:2; 5:8; Lu 22:53; Col 1:13). On Satan and his demons being “world rulers,” compare Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Lu 4:6; 2Co 4:4; 1Jo 5:19, Greek, “lieth in the wicked one.” Though they be “world rulers,” they are not the ruler of the universe; and their usurped rule of the world is soon to cease, when He shall “come whose right it is” (Eze 21:27). Two cases prove Satan not to be a mere subjective fancy: (1) Christ’s temptation; (2) the entrance of demons into the swine (for these are incapable of such fancies). Satan tries to parody, or imitate in a perverted way, God’s working (2Co 11:13, 14). So when God became incarnate, Satan, by his demons, took forcible possession of human bodies. Thus the demoniacally possessed were not peculiarly wicked, but miserable, and so fit subjects for Jesus’ pity. Paul makes no mention of demoniacal possession, so that in the time he wrote, it seems to have ceased; it probably was restricted to the period of the Lord’s incarnation, and of the foundation of His Church.
spiritual wickedness–rather as Greek, “The spiritual hosts of wickedness.” As three of the clauses describe the power, so this fourth, the wickedness of our spiritual foes (Mt 12:45).
in high places–Greek, “heavenly places”: in Eph 2:2, “the air,” see on Eph 2:2. The alteration of expression to “in heavenly places,” is in order to mark the higher range of their powers than ours, they having been, up to the ascension (Re 12:5, 9, 10), dwellers “in the heavenly places” (Job 1:7), and being now in the regions of the air which are called the heavens. Moreover, pride and presumption are the sins in heavenly places to which they tempt especially, being those by which they themselves fell from heavenly places (Isa 14:12-15). But believers have naught to fear, being “blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3).
13. take … of God–not “make,” God has done that: you have only to “take up” and put it on. The Ephesians were familiar with the idea of the gods giving armor to mythical heroes: thus Paul’s allusion would be appropriate.
the evil day–the day of Satan’s special assaults (Eph 6:12, 16) in life and at the dying hour (compare Re 3:10). We must have our armor always on, to be ready against the evil day which may come at any moment, the war being perpetual (Ps 41:1, Margin).
done all–rather, “accomplished all things,” namely, necessary to the fight, and becoming a good soldier.
14. Stand–The repetition in Eph 6:11, 14, shows that standing, that is, maintaining our ground, not yielding or fleeing, is the grand aim of the Christian soldier. Translate as Greek, “Having girt about your loins with truth,” that is, with truthfulness, sincerity, a good conscience (2Co 1:12; 1Ti 1:5, 18; 3:9). Truth is the band that girds up and keeps together the flowing robes, so as that the Christian soldier may be unencumbered for action. So the Passover was eaten with the loins girt, and the shoes on the feet (Ex 12:11; compare Isa 5:27; Lu 12:35). Faithfulness (Septuagint, “truth”) is the girdle of Messiah (Isa 11:5): so truth of His followers.
having on–Greek, “having put on.”
breastplate of righteousness–(Isa 59:17), similarly of Messiah. “Righteousness” is here joined with “truth,” as in Eph 5:9: righteousness in works, truth in words [Estius] (1Jo 3:7). Christ’s righteousness inwrought in us by the Spirit. “Faith and love,” that is, faith working righteousness by love, are “the breastplate” in 1Th 5:8.
15. Translate, “Having shod your feet” (referring to the sandals, or to the military shoes then used).
the preparation–rather, “the preparedness,” or “readiness of,” that is, arising from the “Gospel” (Ps 10:17). Preparedness to do and suffer all that God wills; readiness for march, as a Christian soldier.
gospel of peace–(compare Lu 1:79; Ro 10:15). The “peace” within forms a beautiful contrast to the raging of the outward conflict (Isa 26:3; Php 4:7).
16. Above all–rather, “Over all”; so as to cover all that has been put on before. Three integuments are specified, the breastplate, girdle, and shoes; two defenses, the helmet and shield; and two offensive weapons, the sword and the spear (prayer). Alford translates, “Besides all,” as the Greek is translated, Lu 3:20. But if it meant this, it would have come last in the list (compare Col 3:14).
shield–the large oblong oval door-like shield of the Romans, four feet long by two and a half feet broad; not the small round buckler.
ye shall be able–not merely, “ye may.” The shield of faith will certainly intercept, and so “quench, all the fiery darts” (an image from the ancient fire-darts, formed of cane, with tow and combustibles ignited on the head of the shaft, so as to set fire to woodwork, tents, &c.).
of the wicked–rather “of the EVIL ONE.” Faith conquers him (1Pe 5:9), and his darts of temptation to wrath, lust, revenge, despair, &c. It overcomes the world (1Jo 5:4), and so the prince of the world (1Jo 5:18).
17. take–a different Greek word from that in Eph 6:13, 16; translate, therefore, “receive,” “accept,” namely, the helmet offered by the Lord, namely, “salvation” appropriated, as 1Th 5:8, “Helmet, the hope of salvation”; not an uncertain hope, but one that brings with it no shame of disappointment (Ro 5:5). It is subjoined to the shield of faith, as being its inseparable accompaniment (compare Ro 5:1, 5). The head of the soldier was among the principal parts to be defended, as on it the deadliest strokes might fall, and it is the head that commands the whole body. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it has laid hold of the sure Gospel “hope” of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine, or give way to Satan’s temptations to despair. God, by this hope, “lifts up the head” (Ps 3:3; Lu 21:28).
sword of the Spirit–that is, furnished by the Spirit, who inspired the writers of the word of God (2Pe 1:21). Again the Trinity is implied: the Spirit here; and Christ in “salvation” and God the Father, Eph 6:13 (compare Heb 4:12; Re 1:16; 2:12). The two-edged sword, cutting both ways (Ps 45:3, 5), striking some with conviction and conversion, and others with condemnation (Isa 11:4; Re 19:15), is in the mouth of Christ (Isa 49:2), in the hand of His saints (Ps 149:6). Christ’s use of this sword in the temptation is our pattern as to how we are to wield it against Satan (Mt 4:4, 7, 10). There is no armor specified for the back, but only for the front of the body; implying that we must never turn our back to the foe (Lu 9:62); our only safety is in resisting ceaselessly (Mt 4:11; Jas 4:7).
18. always–Greek, “in every season”; implying opportunity and exigency (Col 4:2). Paul uses the very words of Jesus in Lu 21:36 (a Gospel which he quotes elsewhere, in undesigned consonance with the fact of Luke being his associate in travel, 1Co 11:23, &c.; 1Ti 5:18). Compare Lu 18:1; Ro 12:12; 1Th 5:17.
with all–that is, every kind of.
prayer–a sacred term for prayer in general.
supplication–a common term for a special kind of prayer [Harless], an imploring request. “Prayer” for obtaining blessings, “supplication” for averting evils which we fear [Grotius].
in the Spirit–to be joined with “praying.” It is he in us, as the Spirit of adoption, who prays, and enables us to pray (Ro 8:15, 26; Ga 4:6; Jude 20).
watching–not sleeping (Eph 5:14; Ps 88:13; Mt 26:41). So in the temple a perpetual watch was maintained (compare Anna, Lu 2:37).
thereunto–“watching unto” (with a view to) prayer and supplication.
with–Greek, “in.” Persevering constancy (“perseverance”) and (that is, exhibited in) supplication are to be the element in which our watchfulness is to be exercised.
for all saints–as none is so perfect as not to need the intercessions of his fellow Christians.
19. for me–a different Greek preposition from that in Eph 6:18; translate, therefore, “on my behalf.”
that I may open my mouth boldly–rather, “that there may be given to me ‘utterance,’ or ‘speech’ in the opening of my mouth (when I undertake to speak; a formula used in set and solemn speech, Job 3:1; Da 10:16), so as with boldness to make known,” &c. Bold plainness of speech was the more needed, as the Gospel is a “mystery” undiscoverable by mere reason, and only known by revelation. Paul looked for utterance to be given him; he did not depend on his natural or acquired power. The shortest road to any heart is by way of heaven; pray to God to open the door and to open your mouth, so as to avail yourself of every opening (Jer 1:7, 8; Eze 3:8, 9, 11; 2Co 4:13).
20. For–Greek, as in Eph 6:19, “On behalf of which.”
an ambassador in bonds–a paradox. Ambassadors were held inviolable by the law of nations, and could not, without outrage to every sacred right, be put in chains. Yet Christ’s “ambassador is in a chain!” The Greek is singular. The Romans used to bind a prisoner to a soldier by a single chain, in a kind of free custody. So Ac 28:16, 20, “I am bound with this chain.” The term, “bonds” (plural), on the other hand, is used when the prisoner’s hands or feet were bound together (Ac 26:29); compare Ac 12:6, where the plural marks the distinction. The singular is only used of the particular kind of custody described above; an undesigned coincidence [Paley].
21. that ye also–as I have been discussing things relating to you, so that ye also may know about me (compare Col 4:7, 8). Neander takes it, “Ye also,” as well as the Colossians (Col 4:6).
my affairs–Greek, “the things concerning me.”
how I do–how I fare.
Tychicus–an Asiatic, and so a fit messenger bearing the respective Epistles to Ephesus and Colosse (Ac 20:4; 2Ti 4:12).
a beloved brother–Greek, “the beloved brother”; the same epithet as in Col 4:7.
minister–that is, servant.
in the Lord–in the Lord’s work.
22. for the same purpose–Greek, “for this very purpose.” Col 4:8 is almost word for word the same as this verse.
our affairs–Greek, “the things concerning us,” namely, concerning myself. “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas” (Col 4:10).
23. love with faith–Faith is presupposed as theirs; he prays that love may accompany it (Ga 5:6).
24. Contrast the malediction on all who love Him not (1Co 16:22).
in sincerity–Greek, “in incorruption,” that is, not as English Version, but “with an immortal (constant) love” [Wahl]. Compare “that which is not corruptible” (1Pe 3:4). Not a fleeting, earthly love, but a spiritual and eternal one [Alford]. Contrast Col 2:22, worldly things “which perish with the using.” Compare 1Co 9:25, “corruptible … incorruptible crown.” “Purely,” “holily” [Estius], without the corruption of sin (See on 1Co 3:17; 2Pe 1:4; Jude 10). Where the Lord Jesus has a true believer, there I have a brother [Bishop M’ikwaine]. He who is good enough for Christ, is good enough for me [R. Hall]. The differences of opinion among real Christians are comparatively small, and show that they are not following one another like silly sheep, each trusting the one before him. Their agreement in the main, while showing their independence as witnesses by differing in non-essentials, can only be accounted for by their being all in the right direction (Ac 15:8, 9; 1Co 1:2; 12:3).