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THE SALUTATION, VS. 1. 2.—THANKSGIVING FOR THE BLESSINGS OF REDEMPTION, VS. 3-14.—PRAYER THAT THE EPHESIANS MIGHT INCREASE IN THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF THOSE BLESSINGS, VS. 15-21.
1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2. grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
V. 1. An apostle of Jesus Christ.—The word apostle is used in three senses in the New Testament. 1. In its primary sense of messenger, John 13, 16 (the messenger), he that is sent is not greater than he that sent him. Phil. 2, 25, your messenger. 2 Cor. 8, 23, messengers of the churches. Ἀπόστολος ἐκκλησιῶν; τουτέστιν, says Chrysostom, ὑπὸ ἐκκλησιῶν πεμφθέντες. Theophylact adds καὶ χειροτονηθέντες. 2. In the sense of missionaries, men sent by the church to preach the Gospel.—In this sense Paul and Barnabas are called apostles, Acts 14, 4. 14; and probably Andronicus and Junias, Rom. 16, 7. 3. In the sense of plenipotentiaries of Christ; men whom he personally selected and sent forth invested with full authority to teach and rule in his name. In this sense it is always used when "the apostles," "the twelve," or "the apostles of the Lord," are spoken of as a well-known, definite class. They were appointed as witnesses of Christ’s miracles, doctrines, resurrection; and therefore it was necessary that they should not only have seen him after his resurrection, but that their knowledge of the Gospel should be immediately from Christ, John 15, 26. Acts 1, 22. 2, 32. 3, 15. 13, 31. 26, 16. 1 Cor. 9, 1. Gal. 1, 12. They were not confined to any one field but had a general jurisdiction over the churches, as is manifest from their epistles.—To qualify them for this office of authoritatively teaching, organizing, and governing the church, they were rendered infallible by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and their divine mission was confirmed by miraculous powers.—Their authority therefore rested first on their commission, and secondly on their inspiration. Hence it is evident that none can have the authority of an apostle who has not apostolic gifts. In this respect Romanists are consistent, for they claim infallibility for those whom they regard as the official successors of the apostles. They are, however, inconsistent with their own theory, and at variance with the Scripture, in making this infallibility the prerogative of the prelates in their collective capacity, instead of claiming it for each individual bishop.
Διὰ θελήματος Θεοῦ, by the will of God. There are two ideas included in this phrase. 1. That the apostleship was a gift, or grace from God, Rom. 1, 5. Eph. 3, 7. 8. 2. That the commission or authority of the apostles was immediately from God. Paul in Gal. 1, 1, as well as in other passages, asserts that apostleship was neither derived from men nor conveyed through the instrumentality of men, but conferred directly by God through Christ.
To the saints which are at Ephesus. The Israelites, under the old dispensation, were called saints, because separated from other nations and consecrated to God. In the New Testament the word is applied to believers, not merely as externally consecrated, but as reconciled to God and inwardly purified. The word ἁγιάζειν signifies to cleanse, either from guilt by a propitiatory sacrifice, as in Heb. 2, 11. 10, 10. 14, or from inward pollution, and also to consecrate. Hence the ἅγιοι, saints, are those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and thus separated from the world and consecrated to God. On the words, which are at Ephesus, see the Introduction.
And to the faithful in Christ Jesus. The word πιστός, faithful, may mean preserving faith, worthy of faith, or exercising faith. In the last sense, which is its meaning here, it is equivalent to believing. The faithful, therefore, are believers. In Christ, belongs equally to the two preceding clauses: τοῖς ἁγίοις—καιὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ, ‘To the saints and faithful who are in Christ Jesus.’ Those whom he calls saints he also calls faithful; Ergo, says Calvin, nemo fidelis, nisi qui etiam sanctus: et nemo rursum sanctus, nisi qui fidelis. No one is a believer who is not holy; and no one is holy who is not a believer.
V. 2. Contains the usual apostolic benediction. Paul prays that grace and peace may be granted to his readers. Grace is unmerited favour; and the grace or favour of God is the source of all good. Peace, according to the usage of the corresponding Hebrew word, means well-being in general. It comprehends all blessings flowing from the goodness of God. The apostle prays to Christ, and seeks from him blessings which God only can bestow. Christ therefore was to him the object of habitual worship. He lived in communion with Christ as a divine person, the ground of his confidence and the source of all good.
God is our Father: 1. As He is the author of our being; 2. As we were formed in his likeness. He as a spirit is the Father of spirits. 3. As we are born again by his Spirit and adopted into his family. It is in reference to the last-mentioned relationship that the expression is. almost always used in the New Testament. Those who are the children of God are such by regeneration and adoption.
Jesus Christ is our supreme and absolute Lord and proprietor. The word κύριος is indeed used in Scripture in the sense of master, and as a mere honorary title as in English Master or Sir. But, on the other hand, it is the translation of Adonai, supreme Lord, an incommunicable name of God, and the substitute for Jehovah, a name the Jews would not pronounce. It is in this sense that Christ is, The Lord, The Lord of Lords, The Lord God; Lord in that sense in which God alone can be Lord—having a dominion of which divine perfection is the only adequate or possible foundation. This is the reason why no one can call him Lord, but by the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 12, 3. It is a confession which implies the apprehension of the glory of God as it shines in Him. It is an acknowledgment that he is God manifested in the flesh. Blessed are all they who make this acknowledgment with sincerity; for flesh and blood cannot reveal the truth therein confessed, but the Father who is in heaven.
SECTION II.—Vs. 3-14.
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4. according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5. having predestinated us; unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6. to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the, beloved.
7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8. wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence;
9. having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself;
10. that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;
11. even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;
12. that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13. In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14. which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
The apostle blesses God for the spiritual gifts bestowed upon his people, v. 3. Of these the first in order and the source of all the others, is election, v. 4. This election is, 1st. Of individuals. 2d. In Christ; 3d. It is from eternity. 4th. It is to holiness, and to the dignity of sons of God. 5th. It is founded on the sovereign pleasure of God, vs. 4. 5. 6th. Its final object is the glory of God, or the manifestation of his grace, v. 6.
The second blessing here mentioned is actual redemption through the blood of Christ; the free remission of sins according to the riches of his grace, vs. 7. 8.
The third blessing is the revelation of the divine purpose in relation to the economy of redemption; which has for its object the reduction of all things to a harmonious whole under Jesus Christ, vs. 9. 10.
Through this Redeemer, the Jewish Christians who had long looked for the Messiah are, agreeably to the divine purpose, made the heirs of God, vs. 11. 12. The Gentile converts are partakers of the same inheritance; because, having believed in Christ, they are assured of their redemption by the possession of the Holy Spirit, the pledge of the inheritance until its actual and complete enjoyment, vs. 13. 14.
V. 3. Εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεὸς;, Blessed be God. The word εὐλογεῖν, like its English equivalent, to bless, signifies to praise, as when we bless God; to pray for blessings, as when we bless others; and to bestow blessings, as when God blesses us. Blessed be God who hath blessed us, is then the expression of thanksgiving and praise to God on account of those peculiar benefits which we receive from him through Christ.
God is here designated as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, he is at once God and Father, sustaining both these relations to Christ. Our Saviour used a similar form of expression, when he said, ‘I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God.’ John 20, 17. The God in whom the Israelites trusted was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their covenant God. This designation served to remind the ancient people of God of his promise to their fathers, and of their peculiar consequent relationship to him. The God in whom we are called upon to trust, and to whom we are to look as the source of all good, is not the absolute Jehovah, nor the God who stood in a special relation to the Israelites; but the God of redemption; the God whom the Lord Jesus revealed, whose will he came to accomplish, and who was his Father. It is this relationship which is the ground of our confidence. It is because God has sent the Lord Jesus into the world, because He spared not his own Son, that he is our God and Father, or that we have access to him as such.
It is this reconciled God, the God of the covenant of grace, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings. The past tense, hath blessed, is used because the apostle contemplates his readers as actually redeemed, and in present possession of the unspeakable blessings which Christ has procured. These blessings are spiritual not merely because they pertain to the soul, but because derived from the Holy Spirit, whose presence and influence are the great blessing purchased by Christ.
"In heavenly places." The words ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις may be rendered either in or with heavenly things, or in heavenly places, i. e. in heaven. If the former method be adopted the sense is, ‘Hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, i. e. with heavenly things.’ The words however occur five times in this epistle and always elsewhere in a local sense. See v. 20. 2, 6. 3, 10. 6, 12, which therefore should be preferred here. They are to be connected with the immediately preceding word, ‘Blessings in heaven.’ The meaning is that these blessings pertain to that heavenly state into which the believer is introduced. Here on earth he is, as the apostle says, in ch. 2, 6, ‘in heavenly places.’ He is a citizen of heaven, Phil. 3, 10. The word heaven, in Scripture, is not confined in its application to the place or state of future blessedness, but sometimes is nearly equivalent to ‘kingdom of heaven.’ The old writers, therefore, were accustomed to distinguish between the coelum gloriae, the heaven of glory; coelum naturae, the visible heavens, and coelum gratiae, the heaven of grace here on earth. These blessings connected with this heavenly state, are conferred upon believers in Christ. It is as they are in him, and in virtue of that union that they are partakers of these benefits.
V. 4. All these blessings have their source in the electing love of God. πυλεγήσας—καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς, he blessed us—because he chose us. Καθὼς, according as, or, inasmuch as, because, see John 17, 2. Rom. 1, 28. 1 Cor. 1, 6. Election is the cause or source of all subsequent benefits.
He hath chosen us. By us is not meant the apostle alone, because there is nothing in the context to indicate or justify this restriction. The blessings consequent on the election here spoken of, are in no sense peculiar to the apostle. Neither does the word refer to any external community or society as such. It is not us Ephesians, as Ephesians, nor us Corinthians, nor us Romans, as formerly the Jews were chosen by a national election. But it is us believers, scattered here and there. It is those who are the actual recipients of the blessings spoken of, viz. holiness, sonship, remission of sins, and eternal life.
We are said to be chosen in Him; an expression which is variously explained. Some refer the pronoun to God, ‘chosen us in himself;’ which is contrary not only to the context but to the signification of the words ἐν αὐτῷ, which is the received text. Others say the meaning is, ‘He hath chosen us because we are in him.’ The foresight of our faith or union with Christ, being the ground of this election. This however cannot be admitted. 1. Because faith, or a living union with Christ, is the very blessing to which we are chosen. 2. Because it introduces into the passage more than the words express. 3. Because in this immediate connection, as well as elsewhere, the ground of this election is declared to be the good pleasure of God.—A third interpretation also supposes an ellipsis. The full expression would be: εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, Chosen us to be in Him; in ipso, videlicet adoptandos, as Beza explains it. The objection to this is that it introduces more than the words contain, and that the end to which we are chosen is expressed in the following clause, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους. It is best therefore to take the words as they stand, and to inquire in what sense our election is in Christ. The purpose of election is very comprehensive. It is the purpose of God to bring his people to holiness, sonship, and eternal glory. He never intended to do this irrespective of Christ. On the contrary it was his purpose, as revealed in Scripture, to bring his people to these exalted privileges through a Redeemer. It was in Christ as their head and representative they were chosen to holiness and eternal life, and therefore in virtue of what he was to do in their behalf. There is a federal union with Christ which is antecedent to all actual union, and is the source of it. God gave a people to his Son in the covenant of redemption. Those included in that covenant, and because they are included in it—in other words, because they are in Christ as their head and representative—receive in time the gift of the Holy Spirit and all other benefits of redemption. Their voluntary union with Christ by faith, is not the ground of their federal union, but, on the contrary, their federal union is the ground of their voluntary union. It is, therefore, in Christ, i. e. as united to him in the covenant of redemption, that the people of God are elected to eternal life and to all the blessings therewith connected. Much in the same sense the Israelites are said to have been chosen in Abraham. Their relation to Abraham and God’s covenant with him, were the ground and reason of all the peculiar blessings they enjoyed. So our covenant union with Christ is the ground of all the benefits which we as the people of God possess or hope for. We were chosen in Christ, as the Jews were chosen in Abraham. The same truth is expressed in 3, 11, where it is said that the carrying out or application of the plan of redemption is "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." God purposed to save men in Christ, He elected them in him to salvation.
Again, this election is from eternity. He chose us πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, before the foundation of the world. Comp. 2 Thess. 2, 13. Matt. 25, 34. As our idea of time arises from the perception of motion or consciousness of succession, the natural expression for eternity is’ before time,’ before the existence of creatures who exist in time. Hence what has been from eternity is said in Scriptures to have been before the world was, John 17, 24. 1 Pet. 1, 20; or before the ages, 1 Cor. 2, 7. 2 Tim. 1, 9. "The grace given us in Christ Jesus πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, before the world began."—There seem to be two things intended by this reference to the eternity of the divine purpose. The one is, to represent God as doing every thing in time according to a preconceived plan; or as working all things after the counsel of his own will. From eternity the whole scheme of redemption with all its details and in all its results lay matured in the divine mind. Hence every thing is certain. There is no possibility either of failure or of any change of purpose. The eternity of God’s purpose is, therefore, a strong ground of confidence and comfort. The other is, to express the sovereignty of the divine purpose. The grace was given to us before we existed, before the world began, and of course before we had done any good or evil. It was, therefore, not for works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. If the one aspect of the truth that God chose us before the foundation of the world, is adapted to produce confidence; the other aspect is no less adapted to produce humility.
This election is to holiness. We are chosen εἶναι ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, to be holy and without blame before him. These words admit of two interpretations. They may be understood to refer to our justification, or to our sanctification. They express either that freedom from guilt and blame in the sight of God, which is the proximate effect of the death of Christ; or that subjective purification of the soul which is its indirect, but certain effect produced by the Holy Spirit which his death secures for his people. The words admit of either interpretation; because ἁγιάζειν, as remarked above on v. 1, often means to cleanse from guilt, to atone for; and ἅγιος means clean from guilt, atoned for; and ἄμωμος may mean free from any ground of blame; unsträflich (not deserving of punishment), as Luther renders it. In favour of this interpretation it is urged, first, that it is unscriptural as well as contrary to experience, to make perfect purity and freedom from all blemish, the end of election. There is little force in this argument, because the end of election is not fully attained in this life. It might as well be said that the υἱοθεσία (the adoption of sons), to which in v. 5 we are said to be predestinated, includes nothing more than what is experienced in this world. Besides, in 5, 27, it is said, Christ gave lhimself for the cnhurch,’ That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or ally such thing, but (ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος) that it should be holy and without blemish." This certainly is descriptive of a degree of inward purity not attained by the church militant. Comp. Col. 1, 22. Secondly, it is urged that the whole context treats of the effect of the ἱλαστήριον or propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, and therefore these words must be understood of justification, because sanctification is not the effect of a sacrifice. But the Scriptures often speak of the remote, as well as of the immediate end of Christ’s death. We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son in order that we should be holy. Propitiation is in order to holiness. Therefore, it is said, "He gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself a people zealous of good works." Titus 2, 14. In many other passages sanctification is said to be the end for which Christ died. There is nothing in the context, therefore, which requires us to depart from the ordinary interpretation of this passage. If the words ἐν ἀγάπῃ (in love) are to be connected with the preceding clause, it is decisive as to its meaning ‘We are chosen to be holy and without blame in love.’ It is a state of moral excellence which consists in love. That is, it is no mere external consecration to God, as was the case with the Jews, nor any mere ceremonial freedom from blemish, to which we are elected. This is altogether the most natural connection of the words, from which no one would have thought of departing, had it not been assumed that the words "holy and without blame" refer to sacrificial purification. To connect ἐν ἀγάπῃ, with ἐξελέξατο, would give the sense, ‘Hath chosen us in love;’ but this the position of the words forbids. To connect them with προορίσας, which follows, would give the sense, ‘In love having predestinated us.’ But this also is unnatural; and besides, the word predestinated has its limitation or explanation in the following clause, "according to the good pleasure of his will.’ It would be tautological to say: ‘He hath predestinated us in love according to the good pleasure of his will." The majority of commentators, therefore, adopt the construction followed by our translators.
If election is to holiness as the apostle here teaches, it follows, first, that individuals, and not communities or nations, are the objects of election; secondly, that holiness in no form can be the ground of election. If men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy. And, thirdly, it follows that holiness is the only evidence of election. For one who lives in sin to claim to be elected unto holiness, is a contradiction.
V. 5. The apostle says, God hath chosen us to holiness, having predestinated us to sonship; that is, because he has thus predestinated us. Holiness, therefore, must be a necessary condition or prerequisite for the sonship here spoken of. Sonship in reference to God includes—1. Participation of his nature, or conformity to his image. 2. The enjoyment of his favour, or being the special objects of his love. 3. Heirship, or a participation of the glory and blessedness of God. Sometimes one and sometimes another of these ideas is the most prominent. In the present case it is the second and third. God having predestinated his people to the high dignity and glory of sons of God, elected them to holiness, without which that dignity could neither be possessed nor enjoyed. It is through Jesus Christ, that we are made the sons of God. As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God. John 1, 12. For we are all the children of God by faith of Jesus Christ. Gal. 3, 26. Christ has purchased this dignity for his people. He died for them on condition that they should be the sons of God, restored to their Father’s family and reinstated in all the privileges of this divine relationship.
The words εἰς αὑτόν, to himself, in the clause, ‘Predestinated us to sonship by Jesus Christ to himself,’ are somewhat difficult. The text, in the first place, is uncertain. Some editors read εἰς αὑτόν, unto himself, and others εἰς αὐτόν, unto him. In either case, however, the reference is to God. They admit of three explanations. 1. They may limit or explain the word sonship. ‘Sonship unto himself,’ i. e. sons in relation to God. 2. They may express the design of this adoption. ‘Sonship for himself,’ i. e. for his benefit or glory. This assumes that εἰς is here equivalent to the dative. 3. They may be connected immediately with the words Jesus Christ. ‘Through Jesus Christ to himself,’ i. e. to be brought to him by Jesus Christ. The first is generally preferred, because it gives a good sense, and is consistent with the force of the preposition.
The ground of this predestination and of the election founded upon it, is expressed by the clause, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, according to the good pleasure of his will. The word εὐδοκία means either benevolence, favour, as in Luke 2, 14; or good pleasure, free or sovereign purpose, as in Matt. 11, 26; and Luke 10, 21. Phil. 2, 13. The meaning therefore may be either: ‘according to his benevolent will,’ or ‘according to his sovereign will,’ i. e. his good pleasure. The latter is to be preferred. 1. Because it agrees better with the usage of the word in the N. T. In Matt. 11, 26, ὅτι οὕτως ἐγένετο εὐδοκία ἔμπροσθέν σου means, ‘Because thus it seemed good in thy sight.’ In Luke 10, 21, the same words occur in the same sense. In Phil. 2, 13, ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας means, ‘Of good pleasure.’ 2. The words εὐδοκία τοῦ θελήματος naturally mean voluntas liberrima, beneplacitum, sovereign purpose; to make them mean benevolent will, is contrary to scriptural usage. 3. In this connection it is not the predestinated that are the objects of εὐδοκία, but the act of predestination itself. God chose to have that purpose. It seemed good to him. 4. The expressions, "purpose of his will," " counsel of his will," v. 11, are used interchangeably with that in the text, and determine its meaning. 5. The analogy of Scripture is in favour of this interpretation, because the ground of election is always said to be the good pleasure of God.
V. 6. The final end of election is the glory of God. He has predestinated us to sonship, εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ, to the praise of the glory of his grace. That is, in order that in the exaltation and blessedness of his people, matter for celebrating his grace might be abundantly afforded. It is worthy of remark that here, as in 2, 7. 1 Cor. 1, 27-29, and elsewhere, the specific design of redemption and of the mode in which its blessings are dispensed, is declared to be the manifestation of the grace or unmerited favour of God. Nothing therefore can be more foreign to the nature of the Gospel than the doctrine of merit in any form. It is uncongenial with that great scheme of mercy whose principal design is to exhibit the grace of God.
It is to weaken the language of the apostle to make δόξης a mere qualification either of ἔπαινον (praise), or of χάριτος (grace). It is neither glorious praise, nor glorious grace, but to the praise of the glory of his grace. The glory of grace, is the divine excellence of that attribute manifested as an object of admiration. The glory of God is the manifested excellence of God, and the glory of any one of his attributes, is the manifestation of that attribute as an object of praise. The design of redemption, therefore, is to exhibit the grace of God in such a conspicuous manner as to fill all hearts with wonder and all lips with praise.
Wherein he hath made us accepted. The Text in this clause is uncertain. Some MSS. have ἐν ᾗς which is the common text; and others ἧς. Mill, Griesbach, Lachmann, Rückert adopt the latter; Knapp, Scholz, Harless, De Wette the former. If the genitive be preferred, ἧς is for ἥν, and the phrase χάριν χαριτοῦν would be analogous to others of frequent occurrence, as κλῆσιν καλεῖν, ἀγάπην ἀγαπᾶν. This clause admits of two interpretations. The word χαριτόω, agreeably to the analogy of words of the same formation, signifies to impart χάρις grace. The literal rendering therefore of the words ἐν ᾗ (χάριτι) ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς would be, with which grace he has graced us, or conferred grace upon us. But as grace sometimes means a disposition and sometimes a gift, the sense may be either, ‘Wherein (i. e. in the exercise of which) he has been gracious towards us;’ or, ‘With which he has made us gracious or well pleasing.’ In the former case, grace refers to the goodness or unmerited favour of God exercised towards us; in the latter, to the sanctifying effect produced on us. It is the grace by which he has sanctified or rendered us gracious (in the subjective sense of that word) in his sight. The Greek and Romish interpreters prefer the latter interpretation; the great body of Protestant commentators the former. The reasons in favour of the former are, 1. The word grace in the context is used in the sense of kind disposition on the part of God, and not in the sense of a gift. 2. The verb in the only other case where it occurs in the New Testament, is used in the sense of showing favour. Luke 1, 28: "Hail, thou favoured one!" 3. The parallel passage and analogous expression 2, 4 is in favour of this interpretation. There it is said, "His great love wherewith he hath loved us," and here the same idea is expressed by saying, ‘His grace wherein he favoured us, or which he has exercised towards us.’ 4. The whole context demands this interpretation. The apostle is speaking of the love or grace of God as manifested in our redemption. He has predestinated us to the adoption of sons to the praise of the glory of his grace; which grace he has exercised towards us, in the remission of sins. The same idea is expressed 2, 7, where it is said, God hath quickened is, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us, through Jesus Christ. "To make accepted," therefore, here means, to accept, to treat with favour; or rather, such is the meaning of the apostle’s language; gratia amplexus est, as the word is rendered by Bengel. To which agrees the explanation of Beza: gratis nos sibi acceptos effecit.
This grace is exercised towards us in the Beloved. In ourselves we are unworthy. All kindness towards us is of the nature of grace. Christ is the beloved for his own sake; and it is to us only as in him and for his sake that the grace of God is manifested. This is a truth which the apostle keeps constantly in view, 2, 5. 6. 7.
V. 7. In whom we have redemption. In whom, i. e. not in ourselves. We are not self-redeemed. Christ is our Redeemer. The word redemption, ἀπολύτρωσις, sometimes means deliverance in the general, without reference to the mode in which it is accomplished. When used of the work of Christ it is always to be understood in its strict sense, viz. deliverance by ransom; because this particular mode of redemption is always either expressed or implied. We are redeemed neither by power, nor truth, but by blood; that is, by the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. A sacrifice is a ransom, as to its effect. It delivers those for whom it is offered and accepted. The words διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, by his blood, are explanatory of the words in whom. In whom, i. e. by means of his blood. They serve to explain the method in which Christ redeems.
The redemption of which the apostle here speaks is not the inward deliverance from sin, but it is an outward work, viz. the forgiveness of sins, as the words τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων necessarily mean. It is true this is not the whole of redemption, but it is all the sacred writer here brings into view, because forgiveness is the immediate end of expiation. Though this clause is in apposition with the preceding, it is by no means coextensive with it. So in Rom. 8, 23, where believers are said to be waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body, the two clauses are not coextensive in meaning. The redemption of the body does not exhaust the idea of adoption. Neither in this passage does the forgiveness of sin exhaust the idea of redemption. This passage is often quoted in controversy to prove that justification is merely pardon.
This redemption is not only gratuitous, but it is, in all its circumstances, an exhibition and therefore a proof of the riches of his grace. The word πλοῦτος riches in such connections is a favorite one with the apostle, who speaks of the riches of glory, the riches of wisdom, and the exceeding riches of grace It is the overflowing abundance of unmerited love. inexhaustible in God and freely accessible through Christ. There is, therefore, nothing incompatible between redemption, i. e. deliverance on the ground of a ransom (or a complete satisfaction to justice), and grace. The grace consists —1. In providing this satisfaction and in accepting it in behalf of sinners. 2. In accepting those who are entirely destitute of merit. 3. In bestowing this redemption and all its benefits without regard to the comparative goodness of men. It is not because one is wiser, better, or more noble than others, that he is made a partaker of this grace; but God chooses the foolish, the ignorant, and those who are of no account, that they who glory may glory only in the Lord.
V. 8. Wherein he hath abounded towards us, ἧς ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς. As the word περισσεύω is both transitive and intransitive, the clause may be rendered as above, ἧς being for ᾗ; or, which he has caused to abound towards us, ἧς being for ἥν. The sense is the same; but as the attraction of the dative is very rare, the latter explanation is to be preferred. We are redeemed according to the riches of that grace, which God has so freely exercised towards us.
In all wisdom and prudence, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει. These words admit of a threefold connection and explanation. 1. They may be connected with the preceding verb and qualify the action of God therein expressed. God, in the exercise of wisdom and prudence, has abounded in grace towards us. 2. They may be connected with the following clause: ‘In all wisdom and prudence making known, &c.’ 3. They may be connected with the preceding relative pronoun. ‘Which (grace) in connection with, or together with, all wisdom and prudence he has caused to abound.’ That is, the grace manifested by God and received by us, is received in connection with the divine wisdom or knowledge of which the subsequent clause goes on to speak. This last explanation seems decidedly preferable because the terms here used, particularly the word φρόνησις prudence, is not in its ordinary sense properly referable to God. Cicero de Off. 1. 43. Prudentia enim, quam Graeci φρόνησιν dicunt, est rerum expetendarum fugiendarumque scientia. And because the sense afforded by the third mentioned interpretation is so appropriate to the context and so agreeable to other passages of Scripture. The apostle often celebrates the goodness of God in communicating to men the true wisdom; not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, but the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our glory. See 1 Cor. 1, 17 to the end, and the whole second chapter of that epistle.—Similar modes of expression are common with the apostle. As here he speaks of grace being given (ἐν) in connection with wisdom, so in v. 17 he prays that the Ephesians may receive wisdom (ἐν) in connection with the knowledge of himself.
The wisdom then which the apostle says God has communicated to us, is the divine wisdom in the Gospel, the mystery of redemption, which had been hid for ages in God, but which he has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. See the glorious doxology for this revelation contained in Rom. 16, 25-27. Indeed this whole Epistle to the Ephesians is a thanksgiving to God for the communication of this mysterious wisdom. Mysterious, not so much in the sense of incomprehensible, as in that of undiscoverable by human reason, and a matter of divine revelation. With wisdom the apostle connects φρόνησις, which is here used much in the same sense as σύνεσις in Col. 1, 9, ‘That ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.’ The verb φρονέω is used for any mental exercise or state whether of the understanding or of the feelings. In the New Testament it is commonly employed to express a state of the affections, or rather, of the whole soul, as in Mark 8, 33, "Thou savourest not the things which be of God." Rom. 8, 5, "To mind the things of the flesh." Col. 3, 2, "Set your affections on things above," &c. &c. Hence its derivative φρόνημα is used not only for thought, but more generally for a state of mind, what is in the mind or soul, including the affections as well as the understanding. Hence we have such expressions as φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός a carnal state of mind; and φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος a state of mind produced by the Spirit. The word φρόνησις is equally comprehensive. It is not confined to strictly intellectual exercises, but expresses also those of the affections. In other words, when used in reference to spiritual things, it includes all that is meant by spiritual discernment. It is the apprehension of the spiritual excellence of the things of God, and the answering affection towards them. It is not therefore a mere outward revelation of which the apostle here speaks. The wisdom and understanding which God has so abundantly communicated, includes both the objective revelation and the subjective apprehension of it. This is the third great blessing of which the context treats. The first is election; the second redemption; the third is this revelation both outward and inward. The first is the work of God, the everlasting Father; the second the work of tile Son; and the third the work of the Holy Spirit, who thus applies to believers the redemption purchased by Christ.
V. 9. God has caused this wisdom to abound, or has communicated it, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ. In other words, by the revelation of the Gospel. The word μυστήριον, mystery, means a secret, something into which we must be initiated; something, which being undiscoverable by us, can be known only as it is revealed. In this sense the Gospel is a mystery; and any fact or truth, however simple in itself, in the New Testament sense of the word, is a mystery, if it lies beyond the reach of our powers. Comp. Rom. 16, 25. 1 Cor. 2, 7-10. Eph. 3, 9. Col. 1, 26. For the same reason any doctrine imperfectly revealed is a mystery. It remains in a measure secret. Thus in the fifth chapter of this epistle Paul calls the union of Christ and believers a great mystery; and in 1 Tim. 3, 16 he calls the manifestation of God in the flesh, the great mystery of godliness.
In the present case the mystery of his will means his secret purpose; that purpose of redemption, which having been hid for ages, he has now graciously revealed.
According to his good pleasure, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ, ἣν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ. There are three interpretations of this clause. The first is to make it qualify the word will. ‘His will which was according to his good pleasure;’ i. e. his kind and sovereign will. But this is forbidden by the absence of the connecting article in the Greek, and also by the following clause. The second interpretation connects this clause with the beginning of the verse, ‘Having, according to his good pleasure, made known the mystery of his will.’ The sense in this case is good, but this interpretation supposes the relative which, in the following clause, to refer to the mystery of his will, which its grammatical form in the Greek forbids. Which (ἣν) must refer to good pleasure (εὐδοκία). The third explanation, which alone seems consistent with the context, supposes εὐδοκία to mean here not benevolence, but kind intention, or, sovereign purpose. The sense then is: ‘Having made known the mystery of his will, according to his kind intention or purpose (viz. of redemption) which he had purposed in himself.’ Instead of in himself, many commentators read in him, referring to Christ. But this would introduce tautology into the passage. The apostle would then say: ‘Which he purposed in Christ, to bring together in Christ.’
V. 10. This verse is beset with difficulties. The general sense seems to be this: The purpose spoken of in the preceding verse had reference to the scheme of redemption; the design of which is to unite all the subjects of redemption, as one harmonious body, under Jesus Christ.
Εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, κτλ. The first question relates to the connection with what precedes. This is indicated by the preposition εἰς, which does not here mean in, as though the sense were, He purposed in, or during, the dispensation, &c.; much less until; but as to, in reference to. The purpose which God has revealed relates to the economy here spoken of. The second question is, what is here the meaning of the word οἰκονομία? The word has two general senses in the New Testament. When used in reference to one in authority, it means plan, scheme, or economy. When spoken of one under authority, it means an office, stewardship, or administration of such office. In this latter sense Paul speaks of an οἰκονομία as having been committed unto him. As the business of a steward is to administer, or dispense, so the apostle was a steward of the mysteries of God. It was his office to dispense to others the truths which God had revealed to him. Many take the word in the latter sense here. The meaning would then be: ‘In reference to the administration of the fulness of times, i. e. the last times, or Messianic period; the times which yet remain.’ The former sense of the word however is much better suited to the context. The apostle is speaking of God’s purpose, of what He intended to do. It was a purpose having reference to a plan or economy of his own; an economy here designated as that of the fulness of times. This phrase does not indicate a protracted period—the times which remain—but the termination of the times; the end of the preceding and commencement of the new dispensation. The prophets being ignorant of the time of the Messiah’s advent, predicted his coming when the time determined by God should be accomplished. Hence the expressions, "end of the ages," 1 Cor. 10, 11; "end of days," Heb. 1, 1; "fulness of the time," Gal. 4, 4; and here, "the fulness of times," are all used to designate the time of Christ’s advent. By the economy of the fulness of times is therefore to be understood, that economy which was to be clearly revealed and carried out when the fulness of time had come.
The infinitive ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, to bring together in one, may be referred either to the immediately preceding clause: ‘The plan of the fulness of times to bring together in one;’ or to the preceding verse: ‘The purpose which he purposed (in reference to the economy of the fulness of times), to gather together in one.’ The sense is substantially the same. The verb κεφαλαιόω means summatim colligere, ἀνακεφαλαιόω, summatim recolligere. In the New Testament it means either: 1. To reduce to one sum, i. e. to sum up, to recapitulate. Rom. 13, 9: ‘All the commands are summed up in, or under, one precept.’ 2. To unite under one head; or, 3. To renew. Many of the Fathers adopt the last signification in this place, and consider this passage as parallel with Rom. 8, 19-22. Through Christ God purposes to restore or renovate all things; to effect a παλιγγενεσία or regeneration of the universe, i. e. of the whole creation which now groans under the burden of corruption. This sense of the word however is remote. The first and second meanings just mentioned differ but little. They both include the idea expressed in our version, that of regathering together in one, the force of ἀνά, iterum, being retained. Beza explains the word: partes disjectas et divulsas in unum, corpus conjungere.—The purpose of God, which he has been pleased to reveal, and which was hidden for ages, is his intention to reunite all things as one harmonious whole under Jesus Christ.
The words τὰ πάντα, all things, are explained by the following clause: τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. The totality here referred to includes every thing in heaven and on earth, which the nature of the subject spoken of admits of being comprehended. There is nothing to limit these comprehensive terms, but the nature of the union to which the apostle refers. As, therefore, the Scriptures speak of the whole universe, material and rational, as being placed under Jesus Christ; as they speak especially of all orders of intelligent creatures being subject to him; as they teach the union of the long disjected members of the human family, the Jews and Gentiles, in one body in Christ, of which union this epistle says so much and in such exalted strains; and as finally they speak of the union of the saints of all ages and nations, of those now in heaven and of those now on earth, in one great family above; the words, ALL THINGS, are very variously explained. 1. Some understand them to include the whole creation, material and spiritual, and apply the passage to the final restoration of all things; or to that redemption of the creature from the bondage of corruption of which the apostle speaks in Rom. 8, 19-22. 2. Others restrict the "all things" to all intelligent creatures—good and bad, angels and men—fallen spirits and the finally impenitent. In this view the reduction to unity, here spoken of, is understood by the advocates of the restoration of all things to the favour of God, to refer to the destruction of all sin and the banishment of all misery from the universe. But those who believe that the Scriptures teach that the fallen angels and the finally impenitent among men, are not to be restored to holiness and happiness, and who give the phrase "all things " the wide sense just mentioned, understand the apostle to refer to the final triumph of Christ over all his enemies, of which he speaks in 1 Cor. 15, 23-28. All things in heaven above, in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, are to be made subject to Christ; but this subjection will be either voluntary or coerced. The good will joyfully acknowledge his supremacy; the evil he will restrain and confine, that they no longer trouble or pervert his people. 3. Others again understand the words under consideration, of all good angels and men. The inhabitants of heaven, or the angels, and the inhabitants of the earth, or the saints, are to be united as a harmonious whole under Jesus Christ. 4. The words are restricted to the members of the human family; and the distinction between those in heaven and those on earth, is supposed to refer to the Jews and Gentiles, who, having been so long separated, are under the Gospel and by the redemption of Christ, united in one body in him. The Jews are said to be in heaven because in the kingdom of heaven, or the theocracy; and the Gentiles are said to be on earth, or in the world as distinguished from the church. 5. The words may be confined to the people of God, the redeemed from among men, some of whom are now in heaven and others are still on earth. The whole body of the redeemed are to be gathered together in one, so that there shall be one fold and one shepherd. The form of expression is analogous to Eph. 3, 15, where the apostle speaks of the whole family in heaven and earth.
The decision which of these several interpretations is to be adopted, depends mainly on the nature of the union here spoken of, and on the means by which it is accomplished. If the union is merely a union under a triumphant king, effected by his power converting some and coercing others, then of course we must understand the passage as referring to all intelligent creatures. But if the union spoken of be a union with God, involving conformity to his image and the enjoyment of his favour, and effected by the redemption of Christ, then the terms here employed must be restricted 1o the subjects of redemption. And then if the Scriptures teach that all men and even fallen angels are redeemed by Christ, and restored to the favour of God, they must be included in the all things in heaven and earth here spoken of. If the Scriptures teach that good angels are the subjects of redemption, then they must be comprehended ill the scope of this passage.11CALVIN thinks there is a sense in which good angels may be said to be redeemed by Christ. On this passage, he says: Nihil tamen impedit, quominus angelos quoque dicamus recollectos fuisse, non ex dissipatione, sed primum. ut perfecte et solide adhereant Deo; deinde ut perpetuum statum retineant . . . . Quis neget, tam angelos quam homines, in firmum ordinem Christo gratia fuisse redactos? homines enim perditi erant, angeli vero non erant extra periculum. Again, on the parallel passage in Colossians, he says: Duabus de causis angelos quoque oportuit cum Deo pacificari, nam quam creaturae sint extra lapsus periculum non erant, non nisi Christi gratia fuissent confirmati . . . . Deinde in hac ipsa obedientia, quam præstant Deo, non est tam exquisita perfectio, ut Deo omni ex parte et extra veniam satisfaciat. But if the doctrine of the Bible be, that only a certain portion of the human family are redeemed and saved by the blood of Christ, then to them alone can the passage be understood to refer. In order therefore to establish the correctness of the fifth interpretation mentioned above, all that is necessary is to prove, first, that the passage speaks of that union which is effected by the redemption of Christ; and secondly, that the church alone is the subject of redemption.
That the passage does speak of that union which is effected by redemption, may be argued —1. From the context. Paul, as we have seen, gives thanks first for the election of God’s people; secondly, for their actual redemption; thirdly, for the revelation of the gracious purpose of God relative to their redemption. It is of the redemption of the elect, therefore, that the whole context treats. 2. Secondly, the union here spoken of is an union in Christ. God has purposed "to gather together all things in Christ." The things in heaven and the things on earth are to be united in Him. But believers alone, the members of his body, are ever said to be in Christ. It is not true that angels good or bad, or the whole mass of mankind are in Him in any scriptural sense of that expression. 3. The word here used expresses directly or indirectly the idea of the union of all things under Christ as their head. Christ is not the head of angels, nor of the material universe in the sense in which the context here demands. He is the head of his body, i. e. his church. It is therefore only of the redemption of the church of which this passage can be understood. 4. The obviously parallel passage in Colossians 1, 20 seems decisive on this point. It is there said: "It pleased the Father . . . . having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." From this passage it is plain that the union to be effected is a reconciliation, which implies previous alienation, and a reconciliation effected by the blood of the cross. It is, therefore, not a union of subjection merely to the same Lord, but it is one effected by the blood of Christ, and consequently the passage can be understood only of the subjects of redemption.
That the church or people of God, excluding angels good or bad, and the finally impenitent among men, are alone the subjects of redemption, is proved, as to evil angels and impenitent men, by the numerous passages of Scripture which speak of their final destruction; and as to good angels, by the entire silence of Scripture as to their being redeemed by Christ, and by the nature of the work itself. Redemption, in the scriptural sense, is deliverance from sin and misery, and therefore cannot be predicated of those angels who kept their first estate.
These considerations exclude all the interpretations above enumerated except the fourth and fifth. The fourth, which supposes the passage to refer to the union of the Jews and Gentiles, is excluded by its opposition to the uniform language of Scripture. The Jews are never designated as ‘inhabitants of heaven.’ It is in violation of all usage, therefore, to suppose they are here indicated by that phrase. Nothing therefore remains but the assumption that the apostle refers to the union of all the people of God, i. e. of all the redeemed, in one body under Jesus Christ their head. They are to be constituted an everlasting kingdom; or, according to another symbol—a living temple, of which Jesus Christ is the chief corner stone.
V. 11. God having formed and revealed the purpose of gathering the redeemed as one body in Christ, it is in the execution of this purpose, the apostle says: ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν, in whom we also have obtained an inheritance. By we, in this clause, is to be understood neither the apostle individually, nor believers indiscriminately, but we, who first hoped in Christ; we as contrasted with you also in v. 13; you who were formerly Gentiles in the flesh, 2, 11. It is, therefore, the Jewish Christians to whom this clause refers.
Have obtained an inheritance. The word κληρόω, means to cast lots, to distribute by lot, to choose by lot, and in the middle voice, to obtain by lot or inheritance, or simply, to obtain. There are three interpretations of the word ἐκληρώθημεν in this passage, all consistent with its signification and usage. 1. Some prefer the sense to choose: ‘In whom we also were chosen, as it were, by lot, i. e. freely.’ The Vulgate translates the passage: Sorte vocati sumus; and Erasmus: Sorte electi sumus. 2. As in the Old Testament the people of God are called his inheritance, many suppose the apostle has reference to that usage and meant to say: ‘In whom we have become the inheritance of God.’ 3. The majority of commentators prefer the interpretation adopted in our version: ‘In whom we have obtained an inheritance.’ This view is sustained by the following considerations. 1. Though the verb is in the passive, the above rendering may be justified either by the remark of Grotius: as the active form signifies to give a possession, the passive may signify to accept it;22His words are: κληροῦν, dicitur, qui alteri dat possessionem, κληροῦσθαι, qui eam accipit. or by a reference to that usage of the passive voice illustrated in such passages as Rom. 3, 2. Gal. 2, 7. With verbs, which in the active have the accusative and dative, in the passive construction what was in the dative, becomes the nominative. Hence ἐκληρώθημεν is the same as ἐκλήρωσε ἡμῖν κληρονομίαν; just as πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγελιον is equivalent to ἐπίστευσέ μοι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον. 2. The inheritance of which the apostle speaks in the context, as in vs. 14 and 18, is that which believers enjoy. They are not themselves the inheritance, they are the heirs. Therefore in this place it is more natural to understand him as referring to what believers attain in Christ, than to their becoming the inheritance of God. As the Israelites of old obtained an inheritance in the promised land, so those in Christ become partakers of that heavenly inheritance which he has secured for them. To this analogy such frequent reference is made in Scripture as to leave little doubt as to the meaning of this passage. 3. The parallel passage in Col. 1, 12, also serves to determine the sense of the clause under consideration. What is there expressed by saying: ‘Hath made us partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;’ is here expressed by saying: ‘We have obtained an inheritance.’ Καὶ, also, belongs to the verb and not to the pronoun implied in the form of the verb. The sense is not we also, i. e. we as well as other; but, ‘we have also obtained an inheritance.’ We have not only been made partakers of the knowledge of redemption, but are actually heirs of its blessings.
There are two sentiments with which the mind of the apostle was thoroughly imbued. The one is, a sense of the absolute supremacy of God, and the other a corresponding sense of the dependence of man and the consequent conviction of the entirely gratuitous nature of all the benefits of redemption. To these sentiments he seldom fails to give expression on any fit occasion. In the present instance having said we have in Christ obtained a glorious inheritance, the question suggests itself, Why? His answer is: Having been predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. It is neither by chance nor by our own desert or efforts, that we, and not others, have been thus highly favoured. It has been brought about according to the purpose and by the efficiency of God. What has happened He predetermined should occur; and to his "working" the event is to be exclusively referred. We are said to be predestinated, κατὰ πρόθεσιν, according to the purpose of God. In v. 5 the same thing is expressed by saying: ‘We were predestinated according to the good pleasure of his will;’ and in Rom. 8, 28, by saying: ‘We are called according to his purpose.’ Two things are included in these forms of expression. 1st. That what occurs was foreseen and foreordained. The plan of God embraced and ordered the events here referred to. 2d. That the ground or reason of these occurrences is to be sought in God, in the determination of his will. This however is not a singular case. The bringing certain persons to the enjoyment of the inheritance purchased by Christ, is not the only thing foreordained by God and brought about by his efficiency, and, therefore, the apostle generalizes the truth here expressed, by saying: ‘We are predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.’ Every thing is comprehended in his purpose, and every thing is ordered by his efficient control. That control, however, is exercised in accordance with the nature of his creatures, so that no violence is done to the constitution which he has given them. He is glorified, and his purposes are accomplished without any injustice or violence.
The counsel of his will, κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, means the counsel which has its origin in his will; neither suggested by others, nor determined by any thing out of himself. It is therefore equivalent to his sovereign will.
V. 12. That we should be to the praise of his glory, εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς, εἰς ἔπαινον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, that is, that we should be the means of causing his divine majesty or excellence to be praised. Here, as in v. 6, the glory of God is declared to be the design of the plan of redemption and of every thing connected with its administration. The persons here spoken of are described as τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, those who first hoped in Christ. That is, who hoped in him of old, or before his advent; or, who hoped in him before others, mentioned in v. 13, had heard of him. In either case it designates not the first converts to Christianity, but the Jews who, before the Gentiles, had the Messiah as the object of their hopes. The form of expression here used (ἐλπίζειν ἐν), does not mean simply to expect, but to place one’s hope or confidence in any one. Comp. 1 Cor. 15, 19. It is not, therefore, the Jews as such, but the believing Jews, who are here spoken of as in Christ the partakers of the inheritance which he has purchased.
The construction of these several clauses adopted in the foregoing exposition is that which takes them in their natural order, and gives a sense consistent with the usage of the words and agreeable to the analogy of Scripture. The first clause of this verse is made to depend upon the last clause of v. 11: ‘Having predestinated us to be the praise of his glory;’ and the last clause, ‘Who first hoped in Christ,’ is merely explanatory of the class of persons spoken of. The whole then hangs naturally together: ‘We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestinated to be the praise of his glory, we, who first hoped in Christ.’ There are, however, two other modes of construction possible. The one connects the beginning of v. 12 with the first clause of v. 11, and renders ἐκληρώθημεν, we have attained. The sense would then be, ‘We have attained, or, it has happened unto us to be to the praise of his glory.’ This however not only unnaturally dissevers contiguous clauses, but assigns to ἐκληρώθημεν a weakened sense inconsistent with the Scripture usage of that and its cognate words. A second method connects the last clause of the 12th verse with the second clause of the 11th.—‘Having predestinated us to be the first who hoped in Christ.’ But this also rends the clauses apart, and does not express a sense so suitable to the context. It is saying much more, and much more in the way of an explanation of the fact affirmed in the first clause of v. 11, to say, ‘We were predestinated to be the praise of God’s glory;’ than to say, ‘We were predestinated to be the first who hoped in Christ.’ The majority of commentators therefore take the clauses as they stand, and as they are concatenated in our version.
V. 13. The apostle having in v. 10 declared that the purpose of God is to bring all the subjects of redemption into one harmonious body, says in v. 11 that this purpose is realized in the conversion of the Jewish Christians, and he here adds that another class, viz. the Gentile Christians, to whom his epistle is specially addressed, are comprehended in the same purpose. The first clause, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς, is elliptical. In whom ye also, after that ye heard, &c. There are therefore several modes of construction possible. 1. Our translators borrow the verb ἡλπίκατε from the immediately preceding clause.—‘We, who first trusted in Christ, in whom ye also trusted.’ But the preceding clause is merely subordinate and explanatory, and does not express the main idea of the context. This construction also overlooks the obvious antithesis between the we of the 11th verse and the you of this clause. 2. Others supply simply the verb are. ‘In whom you also are.’ This is better, but it is liable to the latter objection just mentioned. 3. Others make you the nominative to the verb were sealed in the following clause.—‘In whom you also (having heard, &c.) were sealed.’ But this requires the clauses to be broken by a parenthesis. It supposes also the construction to be irregular, for the words in whom also are repeated before the verb ye were sealed. The passage according to this construction would read, ‘In whom ye also—, in whom also ye were sealed.’ Besides, the sealing is not the first benefit the Gentile Christians received. They were first brought into union with Christ and made partakers of his inheritance and then sealed. 4. It is therefore more consistent not only with the drift of the whole passage, and with the relation between this verse and verse 11, but also with the construction of this and the following verse to supply the word ἐκληρώθητε, have obtained an inheritance. Every thing is thus natural. In v. 11, the apostle says, ‘In whom we have obtained an inheritance;’ and here, ‘In whom ye also have obtained an inheritance.’ Both Jews and Gentiles are by the mediation of Christ, and in union with him, brought to be partakers of the benefits of that plan of mercy which God had purposed in himself, and which he has now revealed for the salvation of men.
The clause that follows expresses the means by which the Gentile Christians were brought to be partakers of this inheritance.—‘In whom ye also have obtained an inheritance, ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ εὐαγγ. τῆς σωτηρίας ὑμῶν, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.’ The latter of these expressions is explanatory of the former. By the word of truth, is to be understood, the Gospel. The word of truth does not mean simply true doctrine; but that word which is truth, or in which divine or saving truth is. Col. 1, 5. 2 Cor. 6, 7. The gospel of your salvation, is the gospel concerning your salvation; or rather, the gospel which saves you. It is that gospel which is, as is said Rom. 1, 16, the power of God unto salvation. As it was by hearing this gospel the Gentiles in the days of the apostle were brought to be partakers of the inheritance of God, so it is by the same means men are to be saved now and in all coming ages until the consummation. It is by the word of truth, and not truth in general, but by that truth which constitutes the glad news of salvation.
In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed. This is more than a translation, it is an exposition of the original, ἐν ᾧ καὶ πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε. There are three interpretations of this clause possible, of which our translators have chosen the best. The relative (ἐν ᾧ) may be referred to the word gospel. ‘In which having believed;’ or it may be referred to Christ and connected with the following participle, ‘In whom having believed;’ or it may be taken as in our version, by itself, ‘In whom, i. e. united to whom after that ye believed, ye were sealed.’ This is to be preferred not only because the other construction is unusual (i. e. it is rare that πιστεύειν is followed by ἐν), but because the words, in whom, occur so frequently in the context in the same sense with that here given to them. In Christ, the Gentile Christians had obtained an inheritance, and in him also, they were sealed—after having believed. Whatever is meant by sealing, it is something which follows faith.
There are several purposes for which a seal is used. 1. To authenticate or confirm as genuine and true. 2. To mark as one’s property. 3. To render secure. In all these senses believers are sealed. They are authenticated as the true children of God; they have the witness within themselves, 1 John 5, 10. Rom. 8, 16. 5, 5. They are thus assured of their reconciliation and acceptance. They are moreover marked as belonging to God, Rev. 7, 3; that is, they are indicated to others, by the seal impressed upon them, as his chosen ones. And thirdly, they are sealed unto salvation; i. e. they are rendered certain of being saved. The sealing of God secures their safety. Thus believers are said Eph. 4, 30, "to be sealed unto the day of redemption;" and in 2 Cor. 1, 21, the apostle says: "Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who also hath sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." The sealing then of which this passage speaks answers all these ends. It assures of the favour of God; it indicates those who belong to him; and it renders their salvation certain.
This sealing is by the Holy Spirit of promise. That is, by the Spirit who was promised; or who comes in virtue of the promise. This promise was given frequently through the ancient prophets, who predicted that when the Messiah came and in virtue of his mediation, God would pour his Spirit on all flesh. Christ when on earth frequently repeated this promise; assuring his disciples that when he had gone to the Father, he would send them the Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, to abide with them for ever. After his resurrection he commanded the apostles to abide in Jerusalem until they had received "the promise of the Father," Acts 1, 4; meaning thereby the gift of the Holy Ghost. In Gal. 3, 14, it is said to be the end for which Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, that we should receive the promise of the Spirit. This then is the great gift which Christ secures for his people; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as the source of truth, holiness, consolation, and eternal life.
V. 14. This Spirit is ὁ ἀῤῥαβὼν τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν, the earnest of our inheritance. It is at once the foretaste and the pledge of all that is laid up for the believer in heaven. The word ἀῤῥαβὼν is a Hebrew term which passed first into the Greek and then into the Latin vocabulary, retaining its original sense. It means first, a part of the price of any thing purchased, paid, as a security for the full payment, and then more generally a pledge. It occurs three times in reference to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, 2 Cor. 1, 22. 5, 5; and in the passage before us. In the same sense the Scriptures speak of "the first fruits of the Spirit," Rom. 8, 23. Those influences of the Spirit which believers now enjoy are at once a prelibation or antepast of future blessedness, the same in kind though immeasurably less in degree; and a pledge of the certain enjoyment of that blessedness. Just as the first fruits were a part of the harvest, and an earnest of its ingathering. It is because the Spirit is an earnest of our inheritance, that his indwelling is a seal. It assures those in whom he dwells of their salvation, and renders that salvation certain. Hence it is a most precious gift to be most religiously cherished.
Until the redemption of the purchased possession, εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως. It is doubtful whether these words should be connected with the preceding clause or with the words were sealed in the 13th verse. Our translators have adopted the former method. ‘The Spirit is an earnest until the redemption,’ &c. The latter, however, is perhaps on the whole preferable. ‘Ye were sealed until, or in reference to, the redemption,’ &c. This view is sustained by a comparison with 4, 30, where it is said: ‘Ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.’
The word redemption, in its Christian sense, sometimes means that deliverance from the curse of the law and restoration to the favour of God, of which believers are in this life the subjects. Sometimes it refers to that final deliverance from all evil, which is to take a place at the second advent of Christ. Thus in Luke 21, 28, "They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory; . . . . then lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Rom. 8, 23. Eph. 4, 30. There can be no doubt that it here refers to this final deliverance.
The word rendered purchased possession, is περιποίησις; which means either the act of acquiring, or, the thing acquired. If the former signification be adopted here, the word can only be taken as a participial qualification of the preceding word. ‘The redemption of acquisition,’ for ‘acquired or purchased redemption.’ But this is unnatural. Redemption in itself includes the idea of purchased deliverance. ‘Purchased redemption’ is therefore tautological. If the word be taken for ‘the thing acquired,’ then it may refer to heaven, or the inheritance here spoken of. But heaven is never said to be redeemed. It is therefore most naturally understood of God’s people. They are his possession, his peculium. They are in 1 Pet. 2, 9 called λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, a peculiar people. And in Mal. 3, 17 it is said, They shall be to me for a possession, ἔσονταί μοι εἰς περιποίησιν. Comp. Acts 20, 28, ἐκκλησία ἣν περιεποιήσατο. This interpretation is, therefore, peculiarly suited to the scriptural usage, and the sense is perfectly appropriate. Ye are sealed, says the apostle, until the redemption of God’s peculiar people; i. e. unto the great day of redemption spoken of in 4, 30.
Unto the praise of his glory, i. e. that his glory or excellence should be praised. Comp. vs. 6 and 12. This is the end both of the final redemption and of the present acceptance of believers. This clause, therefore, is to be referred to the whole of the preceding passage. Ye have received an inheritance, have been sealed, and have received the Holy Spirit as an earnest, in order that God may be glorified. This is the last and highest end of redemption.
SECTION III.—Vs. 15-23.
15. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16. cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17. that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18. the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19. and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20. which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21. far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22.and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to his church:
23. which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Having in the preceding Section unfolded the nature of those blessings of which the Ephesians had become partakers, the apostle gives thanks to God for their conversion, and assures them of their interest in his prayers, vs. 15. 16. He prays that God would give them that wisdom and knowledge of himself of which the Spirit is the author, v. 17; that their eyes might be enlightened properly to apprehend the nature and value of that hope which is founded in the call of God; and the glory of the inheritance to be enjoyed among the saints, v. 18; and the greatness of that power which had been already exercised in their conversion, v. 19. The power which effected their spiritual resurrection, was the same as that which raised Christ from the dead, and exalted him above all created beings and associated him in the glory and dominion of God, vs. 20. 21. To him all things are made subject, and he is constituted the supreme head of the church, which is his body, the fulness or complement of the mystical person of him who fills the universe with his presence and power, vs. 22. 23.
V. 15. Wherefore. This word is to be referred either to the whole preceding paragraph, or specially to v. 13. ‘Because you Ephesians, you Gentile Christians, have obtained a portion in this inheritance, and, after having believed, have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, &c.’—‘I also, i. e. as well as others, and especially yourselves.’ The Ephesians might well be expected to be filled with gratitude for their conversion. The apostle assures them he joins them in their perpetual thanksgiving over this glorious event.
Having heard of your faith in the lord Jesus. As Paul was the founder of the church in Ephesus, and had laboured long in that city, it has always excited remark that he should speak of having heard of their faith, as though he had no personal acquaintance with them. This form of expression is one of the reasons why many have adopted the opinion, as mentioned in the Introduction, that this epistle was addressed not to the Ephesians alone or principally, but to all the churches in the western part of Asia Minor. It is, however, not unnatural that the apostle should speak thus of so large and constantly changing a congregation, after having been for a time absent from them. Besides, the expression need mean nothing more than that he continued to hear of their good estate. The two leading graces of the Christian character are faith and love—faith in Christ and love to the brethren. Of these, therefore, the apostle here speaks. Your faith; τὴν καθ᾽ ὑμᾶς πίστιν, which either means the faith which is with you; or as our version renders the words, your faith. Comp. in the Greek Acts 17, 28. 18, 15. Faith in the Lord Jesus, i. e. faith or trust which has its ground in him. For examples of the construction of πίστις with ἐν, see Gal. 3, 26. Col. 1, 4. 1 Tim. 1, 14. 3, 13. 2 Tim. 1, 13. 3, 15. Comp. Mark 1, 15, and in the Septuagint Jer. 12, 6. Ps. 78, 22. This construction, though comparatively rare, is not to be denied, nor are forced interpretations of passages where it occurs to be justified, in order to get rid of it.
In the Old Testament the phrases, the Lord said, the Lord did, our Lord, and the like, are of constant occurrence; and are used only, in this general way, of the Supreme God. We never hear of the Lord, nor our Lord, when reference is had to Moses or any other of the prophets. In the New Testament, however, what is so common in the Old Testament in reference to God, is no less common in reference to Christ. He is the Lord; the Lord Jesus; our Lord, &c. &c. It is this constant mode of speaking, together with the exhibition of his divine excellence, and holding him up as the object of faith and love, even more than any particular declaration, which conveys to the Christian reader the conviction of his true divinity. His being the object of faith and the ground of trust to immortal beings, is irreconcilable with any other assumption than that he is the true God and eternal life.
And love towards all the saints, i. e. towards those who are saints; those who have been cleansed, separated from the world, and consecrated to God. This love is founded upon the character and relations of its objects as the people of God, and therefore it embraces all the saints.
V. 16. I cease not giving thanks for you, making mention of you, &c. This does not mean, ‘praying I give thanks;’ but two things are mentioned—constant thanksgiving on their account, and intercession.
V. 17. The burden of his prayer is contained in this and the verses following. The object of his prayer, or the person to whom it is addressed, is designated, first, as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, i. e. the God, whose work Christ came to do, by whom he was sent, of whom he testified and to whom he has gone;—and secondly, ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης, the Father of glory. This designation is variously explained. By glory many of the Fathers understood the divine nature of Christ, and remarked that Paul here calls God, the God of Christ as a man, but his Father as God.33So BENGEL, who explains the expression thus: Pater gloriae, infinitae illius, quae refulget in facie Christi; immo gloriae quae est ipse filius Dei. This interpretation of the phrase ‘Father of glory,’ is without the least support from the analogy of Scripture. It means either, the source or author of glory; or the possessor of glory, i. e. who is glorious. Comp. Acts 7, 1. 1 Cor. 2, 8, "Lord of glory." James 2, 1, and in Ps. 24, 7, "the king of glory."
There are three leading petitions expressed in the prayer here recorded. First, for adequate knowledge of divine truth. Second, for due appreciation of the future blessedness of the saints. Third, for a proper understanding of what they themselves had already experienced in their conversion.
His first prayer is thus expressed: That he may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him. By πνεῦμα σοφίας, the Spirit of wisdom, is to be understood the Holy Spirit, the author of wisdom, and not merely a state of mind, which consists in wisdom. It is true the word spirit is sometimes used in periphrases expressive of mental acts or states. As in 1 Cor. 4, 21, "spirit of meekness;" and 2 Cor. 4, 13, "The same spirit of faith," i. e. the same confidence. But in the present case the former interpretation is to be preferred. 1. Because the Holy Spirit is so constantly recognized as the source of all right knowledge; and 2. Because the analogy of Scripture is in favour of this view of the passage. In such passages as the following the word spirit evidently is to be understood of the Holy Spirit. John 15, 26, "Spirit of truth;" Rom. 8, 15, "Spirit of adoption;" comp. Gal. 4, 6, "God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." 1 Thess. 1, 6, "Joy of the Holy Spirit." Rom. 15, 30, "Love of the Spirit." Gal. 5, 5, "We by the Spirit wait," &c. The Holy Spirit is the author of that wisdom of which the apostle speaks so fully in 1 Cor. 2, 6-10; and which he describes, first negatively as not of this world, and then affirmatively, as the hidden wisdom of God, which he had revealed, by the Spirit, for our glory. It is the whole system of divine truth, which constitutes the Gospel. Those who have this wisdom are the wise. There is a twofold revelation of this wisdom, the one outward, by inspiration, or through inspired men; the other inward, by spiritual illumination. Of both these the apostle speaks in 1 Cor. 2, 10-16, and both are here brought into view. Comp. Phil. 3, 15. By ἀποκαλυψις, revelation, therefore, in this passage is not to be understood, the knowledge of future events, nor the prophetic gift, nor inspiration. It is something which all believers need and for which they should pray. It is that manifestation of the nature or excellence of the things of God, which the Spirit makes to all who are spiritually enlightened, and of which our Saviour spoke, when he said in reference to believers, They shall all be taught of God.
In the knowledge of him. The pronoun him refers not to Christ, but to God the immediate subject in this context. The word ἐπίγνωσις here rendered knowledge means accurate and certain, and especially, experimental knowledge; as in Rom. 3, 20, "By the law is the knowledge (the conviction) of sin." Eph. 4, 13. Phil. 1, 9. 1 Tim. 2, 4. The word expresses adequate and proper knowledge, the precise nature of which depends on the object known. The phrase is ἐν ἐπιγνώσει, which some render as though εἰς with the accusative were used—unto knowledge, i. e. so as to know. Others connect these words with those which precede, and translate, ‘wisdom in knowledge,’ i. e. wisdom consisting in knowledge. Others again connect them with the following clause, ‘Through knowledge your eyes being enlightened.’ The simplest method is to refer them to what precedes.’ May give you wisdom together with the knowledge of himself.’ Comp. v. 8, and Phil. 1, 9, "That your love may abound in, i. e. together with, knowledge." The apostle’s prayer is for the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, as the author of divine wisdom, and as the revealer of the things of God, which insight into the things of the Spirit, is connected with that knowledge of God in which eternal life essentially consists.
V. 18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened. Instead of διανοίας understanding, the great majority of ancient manuscripts and versions read καρδίας head, which is no doubt the true reading. The word heart in Scripture is often used as we use the word soul, to designate the whole spiritual nature in man. Rom. 1, 21. 2 Cor. 4, 6.
This clause πεφωτισμένους τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς τῆς καρδίας ὑμῶν, may either be taken absolutely as our translators have understood it—or considered as in apposition and explanatory of what precedes. ‘That he may give you the spirit of wisdom, &c., eyes enlightened, &c.’ This latter mode of explanation is the one commonly adopted. The effect of the gift of the spirit of wisdom is this illumination, not of the speculative understanding merely, but of the whole soul. For light and knowledge in Scripture often include the ideas of holiness and happiness, as well as that of intellectual apprehension. Comp. such passages as John 8, 12, "Light of life." Acts 26, 18, "To turn from darkness to light." Eph. 5, 8, "Ye were.sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." Believers, therefore, are called "children of the light." Luke 16, 8. 1 Thess. 5, 5.
The residue of this verse εἰς τὸ εἰδέναι ὑμᾶς, κτλ. contains a second petition. Having prayed that the Ephesians might be enlightened in the knowledge of God and of divine things, the apostle here prays, as the effect of that illumination, that they may have a proper appreciation of the inheritance to which they have attained.
That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, i. e. the hope of which his calling is the source; or to which he has called you. The vocation here spoken of is not merely the external call of the Gospel, but the effectual call of God by the Spirit, to which the word κλῆσις in the epistles of Paul always refers. The word hope is by many here understood objectively for the things hoped for; as in Rom. 8, 24, and Col. 1, 5, "The hope laid up for you in heaven." It is then identical with the inheritance mentioned in the latter part of the verse. This, however, is a reason against that interpretation. There are two things which the apostle mentions and which he desires they may know. First, the nature and value of the hope which they are now, on the call of God, authorized to indulge; and secondly, the glory of the inheritance in reserve for them. It is better, therefore, to take the word in its ordinary subjective sense. It is a great thing to know, or estimate aright the value of a well founded hope of salvation.
And what the riches of the glory of his inheritance, καὶ τίς ὁ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης τῆς κληρονομίας αὐτοῦ, i. e. what is the abundance and greatness of the excellence of that inheritance of which God is the author. The apostle labours here, and still more in the following verses, for language to express the greatness of his conceptions. This inheritance is not only divine as having God for its author; but it is a glorious inheritance; and not simply glorious, but the glory of it is inconceivably great.
In the saints, ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις. These words admit of different constructions, but the most natural is to refer them to the immediately preceding clause, His inheritance in the saints; i. e. which is to be enjoyed among them. Comp. Acts 20, 32, and 26, 18, "An inheritance among them that are sanctified." Col. 1, 12, "Partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." It was one part of the peculiar blessedness of the Gentile Christians, who had been strangers and foreigners, that they were become fellow-citizens of the saints. It was therefore an exaltation of the inheritance, now set before them, to call it the inheritance prepared for the saints, or peculiar people of God.
V. 19. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. This is the third petition in the apostle’s prayer. He prays that his readers may have right apprehensions of the greatness of the change which they had experienced. It was no mere moral reformation effected by rational considerations; nor was it a self-wrought change, but one due to the almighty power of God. Grotius indeed, and commentators of that class, understand the passage to refer to the exertion of the power of God in the future resurrection and salvation of believers. But 1. It evidently refers to the past and not to the future. It is something which believers, as believers, had already experienced that he wished them to understand. 2. The apostle never compares the salvation of believers with the resurrection of Christ, whereas the analogy between his natural resurrection and the spiritual resurrection of his people, is one to which he often refers. 3. This is the analogy which he insists upon in this immediate connection. As God raised Christ from the dead and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places; so you, that were dead in sins, hath he quickened and raised you up together in him. This analogy is the very thing he would have them understand. They had undergone a great change; they had been brought to life; they had been raised from the dead by the same almighty power which wrought in Christ. There was as great a difference between their present and their former condition, as between Christ in the tomb and Christ at the right hand of God. This was something which they ought to know. 4. The parallel passage in Col. 2, 12, seems decisive of this interpretation. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." In this passage it cannot be doubted that the apostle compares the spiritual resurrection of believers with the resurrection of Christ, and refers both events to the operation of God, or to the divine power. Such also is doubtless the meaning of the passage before us; and in this interpretation there has been a remarkable coincidence of judgment among commentators. Chrysostom says: "The conversion of souls is more wonderful than the resurrection of the dead." Oecumenius remarks on this passage: "To raise us from spiritual death is an exercise of the same power that raised Christ from natural death." Calvin says, "Some (i. e. Stulti homines) regard the language of the apostle in this passage as frigid hyperbole, but those who are properly exercised find nothing here beyond the truth." He adds: "Lest believers should be cast down under a sense of their unworthiness, the apostle recalls them to a consideration of the power of God; as though he had said, their regeneration is a work of God, and no common work, but one in which his almighty power is wonderfully displayed." Luther, in reference to the parallel passage in Colossians, uses the following language: "Faith is no such easy matter as our opposers imagine, when they say, ‘Believe, Believe, how easy is it to believe.’ Neither is it a mere human work, which I can perform for myself, but it is a divine power in the heart, by which we are new born, and whereby we are able to overcome the mighty power of the Devil and of death; as Paul says to the Colossians, ‘In whom ye are raised up again through the faith which God works."’
It is then a great truth which the apostle here teaches. He prays that his readers may properly understand τί τὸ ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ. The conversion of the soul is not a small matter; nor is it a work effected by any human power. It is a resurrection due to the exceeding greatness of the power of God.
According to the working of his mighty power, κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ κράτους τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ. The original here offers a remarkable accumulation of words.—‘According to the energy of the might of his power.’ Ἰσχύς, κράτος, ἐνέργεια; Robur, Potential, Efficacia. The first is inherent strength; the second power; the third the exercise or efficiency of that strength. Or, as Calvin says, The first is the root, the second the tree, the third the fruit. Whatever be the precise distinction in the signification of the words, their accumulation expresses the highest form of power. It was nothing short of the omnipotence of God to which the effect here spoken of is due. No created power can raise the dead, or quicken those dead in trespasses and sins.
The connection of this clause is somewhat doubtful. It may be referred to the words exceeding greatness of his power, i. e. κατὰ ἐνέργειαν may be referred to τὸ ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος, κτλ. The sense would then be—‘That ye may know the exceeding greatness of his power, to us-ward that believe, which was, according to, or like, the working of his mighty power which wrought in Christ.’ Or, πιστεύοντας κατὰ ἐνέργειαν may be connected, ‘Who believe in virtue of the working of his mighty power.’ In the one case this clause is a mere illustration or amplification of the idea of the divine power of which believers are the subject. In the other, it expresses more definitely the reason why the power which they had experienced was to be considered so great, viz., because their faith was due to the same energy that raised Christ from the dead. In either case the doctrinal import of the passage is the same. The considerations in favour of the latter mode of construction are: 1. The position of the clauses. According to this interpretation they are taken just as they stand. ‘Us who believe in virtue of (κατά) the working, &c.’ 2. The frequency with which the apostle uses the preposition κατά in the sense thus given to it. In ch. 3, 7, he says, ‘his conversion and vocation were (κατά) in virtue of the working of God’s power.’ See also 3, 20. 1 Cor. 12, 8. Phil. 3, 21. Christ will fashion our bodies (κατά) ‘in virtue of the energy whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.’ Col. 1, 29. 2 Thess. 2, 9. To say, therefore, ‘we believe in virtue of, &c.,’ is in accordance with a usage familiar to this apostle. 3. The parallel passage in Col. 2, 12, expresses the same idea. There the phrase is πίστις τὢν ἐνεργείας, faith of the operation of God, i. e. which he operates; here it is πίστις κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, faith in virtue of the operation,. The analogy between the expressions is so striking, that the one explains and authenticates the other.
The prayer recorded in these verses is a very comprehensive one. In praying that the Ephesians might be enlightened with spiritual apprehensions of the truth, the apostle prays for their sanctification. In praying that they might have just conceptions of the inheritance to which they were called, he prayed that they might be elevated above the world. And in praying that they might know the exceeding greatness of the power exercised in their conversion, he prayed that they might be at once humble and confident; humble, in view of the death of sin from which they had been raised; and confident, in view of the omnipotence of that God who had begun their salvation.
V. 20. Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, ἣν ἐνήργησεν, κτλ. There are two things evidently intended in these words. First, that the power which raises the believer from spiritual death, is the same as that which raised Christ from the, grave. And secondly, that there is a striking analogy between these events and an intimate connection between them. The one was not only the symbol, but the pledge and procuring cause of the other. The resurrection of Christ is both the type and the cause of the spiritual resurrection of his people, as well of their future rising from the grave in his glorious likeness. On this analogy and connection the apostle speaks at large in Rom. 6, 1-10, and also in the following chapters of this epistle. As often therefore as the believer contemplates Christ as risen and seated at the right hand of God, he has at once an illustration of the change which has been effected in his own spiritual state, and a pledge that the work commenced in regeneration shall be consummated in glory.
And caused him to sit at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Kings place at their right hand those whom they design to honour, or whom they associate with themselves in dominion. No creature can be thus associated in honour and authority with God, and therefore to none of the angels hath he ever said: Sit thou at my right hand. Heb. 1, 13. That divine honour and authority are expressed by sitting at the right hand of God, is further evident from those passages which speak of the extent of that dominion and of the nature of that honour to which the exalted Redeemer is entitled. It is an universal dominion. Matt. 28, 18. Phil. 2, 9. 1 Pet. 3, 22; and it is such honour as is due to God alone. John 5, 23.
V. 21. The immediate subject of discourse in this chapter is the blessings of redemption conferred on believers. The resurrection and exaltation of Christ are introduced incidentally by way of illustration. The apostle dwells for a moment on the nature of this exaltation, and on the relation of Christ, at the right hand of God, to his church, and then, at the beginning of the following chapter, reverts to his main topic.
The subject of the exaltation here spoken of is not the Logos, but Christ; the Theanthropos, or God-man. The possession of divine perfections was the necessary condition of this exaltation because, as just remarked, the nature and extent of the dominion granted to him, demand such perfections. It is a dominion not only absolutely universal, but it extends over the heart and conscience, and requires the obedience not only of the outward conduct but of the inward life, which is due to God alone. We therefore find the divine nature of Christ presented in the Scriptures as the reason of his being invested with this peculiar dominion. Thus in the second Psalm, it is said, "Thou art my Son; ask of me, I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance. &c." That is, because thou art my son, ask and I will give thee this dominion. And in the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, it is said, The Son, being the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high. That is, because he is of the same nature with the Father and possesses the same almighty power, he is associated with him in his dominion. While the divine nature of Christ is the necessary condition of his exaltation, his mediatorial work is the immediate ground of the Theanthropos, God manifested in the flesh, being invested with this universal dominion. This is expressly asserted, as in Phil. 2, 9. Though equal with God, he humbled himself to become obedient unto death, wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.
In illustration of the exaltation of Christ mentioned in v. 20, the apostle here says, He is seated ὑπὲρ ἄνω, up above, high above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion. That these terms refer to angels is plain from the context, and from such passages as Rom. 8, 38. Col. 1, 16. Eph. 3, 10. 6, 12. Where angels are either expressly named, or the powers spoken of are said to be in heaven, or they are opposed to "flesh and blood," i. e. man, as a different order of beings. The origin of the application of these terms to angels cannot be historically traced. The names themselves suggest the reason of their use. Angels are called principalities, powers and dominions, either because of their exalted nature; or because through them God exercises his power and dominion; or because of their relation to each other. It is possible indeed that Paul had a polemic object in the use of these terms. This epistle and especially that to the Colossians, contain many intimations that the emanation theory, which afterwards assumed the form of Gnosticism, had already made its appearance in Asia Minor. And as the advocates of that theory used these terms to designate the different effluxes from the central Being, Paul may have borrowed their phraseology in order to refute their doctrine. Be this as it may, the obvious meaning of the passage is that Christ is exalted above all created beings.
And every name, i. e., as the connection shows, every name of excellence or honour, that is named. That is, above every creature bearing such name as prince, potentate, ruler, or whatever other title there may be.
Not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι. That is, not only in this age, but in the age to come. The words may have the general sense of, here or hereafter; as in Matt. 12, 32. According to Jewish usage, they designate the period before and the period after the advent of the Messiah. To this, however, there is no reference in the context. As in Matthew these words are used to express in the strongest terms that the sin against the Holy Ghost can never be forgiven; so here they are intended to add universality to the preceding negation. There is no name here or hereafter, in this world or in the next, over which Christ is not highly exalted.
V. 22. And hath put all things under his feet. Christ is not only exalted above all creatures, but he has dominion over them; all are placed in absolute subjection to him. They are under his feet. This passage is a quotation from Ps. 8, 7. It is applied to Christ by this same apostle in 1 Cor. 15, 27, and Heb. 2, 8. In both of these passages the word all is pressed to the full extent of its meaning. It is made to include all creatures, all capable of subjection; all beings save God alone, are made subject to man in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords, and King of kings.
There are two principles on which the application of this passage of Ps. 8 to Christ may be explained. The one is that the Psalm is a prophetic exhibition of the goodness of God to Christ, and of the dominion to be given to him. There is nothing, however, in the contents of the Psalm to favour the assumption of its having special reference to the Messiah. The other principle admits the reference of the Psalm to men generally, but assumes its full meaning to be what the apostle here declares it to be, viz., that the dominion which belongs to man is nothing less than universal. But this dominion is realized only in the Man Christ Jesus, and in those who are associated with him in his kingdom. This latter mode of explanation satisfies all the exigencies both of the original Psalm and of the passages where it is quoted in the New Testament.
And gave him to be head over all things to the church, καὶ αὐτὸν ἔδωκεν κεφαλὴν ὑπὲρ πάντα τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ. This may mean either, he gave him to the church as her head; or, he constituted him head for the church. The former is more consistent with the meaning of the verb δίδωμι. It may, however, also signify to constitute; see 4, 11, and compare 1 Cor. 12, 28. In either case, Christ is declared to be head not of the universe, but of the church. This being admitted, ὑπὲρ πάντα may be taken in immediate connection with κεφαλήν, head over all, i. e. supreme head. This does not mean head over all the members of the church, as the Vulgate translates: caput super omnem ecclesiam; for πάντα and ἐκκλησίᾳ are not grammatically connected; but simply supreme head. Or we may adopt the interpretation of Chrysostom: τὸν ὀντα ὑπὲρ πάντα τὰ ὀρώμενα καὶ τὰ νοούμενα Χριστόν, "Him, who is over all things visible and invisible, he gave to the church as her head." This gives a good sense, but supposes an unnatural trajection of the words. Luther also transposes the words: Und hat ihn gesetzt zum Haupt der Gemeinde über alles. So does De Wette: Und ihn gesetzet über alles zum Haupte der Gemeinde, And placed him over all as head of the church. In all these interpretations the main idea is retained; viz. that Christ is the head of the church. As in Col. 2, 10, it is said Christ is ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας, the head of all principality and power, in the sense of supreme ruler; and as here in the immediately preceding context he is said to be exalted over all principality and power, and in the following context he is said to be the head of the church, which is his body, the two ideas may be here combined. ‘Him he gave as head over all things, as head to his church.’—This is Meyer’s interpretation. He, the exalted Saviour, the incarnate Son of God, seated as head of the universe, is made head of his church. This view of the passage has the advantage of giving πάντα the same reference here that it has in the preceding verse. All things are placed under his feet, and he head over all things, is head of the church.
The sense in which Christ is the head of the church, is that he is the source of its life, its supreme ruler, ever present with it, sympathizing with it, and loving it as a man loves his own flesh. See 4, 15. 16. 5, 23. 29. Rom. 12, 5. 1 Cor. 12, 27. Intimate union, dependence, and community of life, are the main ideas expressed by this figure.
V. 23. Which is his body. This is the radical, orI formative idea of the church. From this idea are to be developed its nature, its attributes, and its prerogatives. It is the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, that constitutes the church his body. And, therefore, those only in whom the Spirit dwells are constituent members of the true church. But the Spirit does not dwell in church officers, nor especially in prelates, as such; nor in the baptized, as such; nor in the mere external professors of the true religion; but in true believers, who therefore constitute that church which is the body of Christ, and to which its attributes and prerogatives belong.
The main question which this verse presents for consideration is: In what sense is the church the fulness of Christ? There are, however, two other points which must be previously determined. In the first place, it is the church, and not Christ to whom the word fulness here refers. Some commentators adopt the following interpretation of the passage: ‘Christ, the supreme head to the church (which is his body), the fulness, i. e. Christ is the fulness, of him that filleth all in all.’ But 1. This interpretation violates the grammatical construction of the passage. 2. It rends the clauses very unnaturally asunder. 3. It assumes that the last clause of the verse, viz. ‘who fills all in all,’ refers to God, whereas it refers to Christ. 4. The sense thus obtained is unscriptural. The fulness of the Godhead is said to be in Christ; but Christ is never said to be the fulness of God.
In the second place, the church is here declared to be the fulness of Christ, and not the fulness of God.—Some commentators understand the passage thus: ‘The church, which is the body of Christ, is the fulness of him who fills all in all, i. e. of God.’ But to this it is objected, 1. That the construction of the passage requires that the last clause in the verse be referred to Christ; and 2. This interpretation supposes the word πλήρωμα fulness, to mean multitude.’The multitude belonging to him who fills all in all.’ But this is a signification which the word never has in itself, but only in virtue of the word with which it is at times connected. The expression πλήρωμα τῆς πόλεως may be freely rendered, the multitude of the city, because that which fills a city is a multitude. But this does not prove that the word πλήρωμα itself signifies a multitude. There is no good reason then for departing from the ordinary interpretation, according to which, the church is declared to be the fulness of Christ.
There are two opinions as to the meaning of this phrase, between which commentators are principally divided. First, the church may be called the fulness of Christ, because it is filled by him. As the body is filled, or pervaded by the soul, so the church is filled by the Spirit of Christ. Or, as God of old dwelt in the temple, and filled it with his glory, so Christ now dwells in his church and fills it with his presence. The sense is then good and scriptural. ‘The church is filled by him, who fills all in all.’ Or secondly, the church is the fulness of Christ, because it fills him, i. e. completes his mystical person. He is the head, the church is the body. It is the complement, or that which completes, or renders whole. As both these interpretations give a sense that is scriptural and consistent with the context, the choice between them must be decided principally by the New Testament usage of the word πλήρωμα. The former interpretation supposes the word to have a passive signification—that which is filled. But in every other case in which it occurs in the New Testament, it is used actively—that which does fill. Matt. 9, 16, The piece put into an old garment is called its fulness, i. e. ‘that which is put in to fill it up.’ Mark 6, 43, The fragments which filled the baskets, are called their fulness. John 1, 16, ‘Of his fulness,’ means the plenitude of grace and truth that is in him. Gal. 4, 4, The fulness of the time, is that which renders full the specified time. Col. 2, 9, The fulness of the Godhead, is all that is in the Godhead. Eph. 3, 19, The fulness of God, is that of which God is full—the plenitude of divine perfections. 1 Cor. 10, 26, The fulness of the earth, is that which fills the earth. The common usage of the word in the New Testament is therefore clearly in favour of its being taken in an active sense here. The church is the fulness of Christ—in that it is the complement of his mystic person. He is the head, the church is his body.
In favour of the other interpretation it may be urged,—1. That πλήρωμα has in the Classics, in Philo, in the writings of the Gnostics, at times, a passive sense. 2. The meaning thus afforded is preferable. It is a more scriptural and more intelligible statement, to say that Christ fills his church, as the soul pervades the body—or as the glory of the Lord filled the temple, than to say that the church in any sense fills Christ. 3. Πλήρωμα must be taken in a sense which suits the participle πληρουμένου; ‘the church is filled by him who fills all things.’ The second and third of these reasons are so strong as to give this interpretation the preference in the minds of those to whom the usus loquendi of the New Testament is not an insuperable objection.
That filleth all in all, τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πληρουμένου. This clause, as before remarked, refers to Christ, as the construction obviously demands. The participle πληρουμένου is by almost all commentators assumed to have in this case an active signification. This assumption is justified by the exigency of the place, and by the fact that in common Greek the passive forms of this verb are at times used in an active sense. That there is no such case in the New Testament, is not therefore a sufficient reason for departing from the ordinary interpretation.
The expression, τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι, all in all, or, all with all, does not mean all the church in all its members, or with all grace, but the universe in all its parts. There is nothing in the context to restrict or limit τὰ πάντα. The words must have the latitude here which belongs to them in the preceding verses. The analogy of Scripture is in favour of this interpretation. God’s relation to the world, or totality of things external to himself, is elsewhere expressed in the same terms. Jer. 23, 24, " Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord." Comp. 1 Kings 8, 27. Ps. 139, 7. In the New Testament Christ is set forth as creating, sustaining, and pervading the universe. Col. 1, 16. 17. Heb. 1, 3. Eph. 4, 10. This, therefore, determines the sense in which he is here said to fill all things. It is not that he replenishes all his people with his grace; but that he fills heaven and earth with his presence. There is no place where he is not. There is no creature from which he is absent. By him all things consist; they are upheld by his presence in them and with them. The union, therefore, which the church sustains, and which is the source of its life and blessedness, is not with a mere creature, but with Christ, God manifested in the flesh, who pervades and governs all things by his omnipresent power. The source of life, therefore, to the church is inexhaustible and immortal.
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