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THE APOSTLE CONTRASTS THE SPIRITUAL STATE OF THE EPHESIANS BEFORE THEIR CONVERSION, WITH THAT INTO WHICH THEY HAD BEEN INTRODUCED BY THE GRACE OF GOD, VS. 1-10.—HE CONTRASTS THEIR PREVIOUS CONDITION AS ALIENS, WITH THAT OF FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SAINTS AND MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY OF GOD, VS. 11-22.
SECTION I.—Vs. 1-10.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2. wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3. among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5. even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6. and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7. that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus.
8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9. not of works, lest any man should boast.
10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
There are three principal topics treated of in this Section. First, the spiritual state of the Ephesians before their conversion. Second, the change which God had wrought in them. Third, the design for which that change had been effected.
I. The state of the Ephesians before their conversion, and the natural state of men universally, is one of spiritual death, which includes—1. A state of sin. 2. A state of subjection to Satan and to our own corrupt affections. 3. A state of condemnation, vs. 1-3.
II. The change which they had experienced was a spiritual resurrection; concerning which the apostle teaches—1. That God is its author. 2. That it is a work of love and grace. 3. That it was through Christ, or in virtue of union with him. 4. That it involves great exaltation, even an association with Christ in his glory, vs. 4-6.
III. The design of this dispensation is the manifestation through all coming ages of the grace of God. It is a manifestation of grace—1. Because salvation in general is of grace. 2.. Because the fact that the Ephesian Christians believed or accepted of this salvation was due not to themselves but to God. Faith is his gift. 3. Because good works are the fruits not of nature, but of grace. We are created unto good works.
V. 1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. There is an intimate connection between this clause and the preceding paragraph. In v. 19 of the first chapter the apostle prays that the Ephesians might duly appreciate the greatness of that power which had been exercised in their conversion. It was to be known from its effects. It was that power which was exercised in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, and which had wrought an analogous change in them. The same power which quickened Christ has quickened you. The conjunction καί therefore is not to be rendered also, "you also," you as well as others. It serves to connect this clause with what precedes. ‘God raised Christ from the dead, and he has given life to you dead in trespasses and sins.’
The grammatical construction of these words is doubtful. Some connect them immediately with the last clause of the first chapter.—‘Who fills all in all and you also,’ i. e. ὑμᾶς is made to depend on πληρουμένου. This, however, to make any tolerable sense, supposes the preceding clause to have a meaning which the words will not bear. Others refer the beginning of this verse to the 20th ver. of the preceding chapter or at least borrow from that verse the verb required to complete the sense in this. ‘God raised Christ, and he has raised you, ἐγείρας τὸν Χριστὸν, καὶ ὑμᾶς ἤγειρε. There is indeed this association of ideas, but the two passages are not grammatically thus related. The first seven verses of this chapter form one sentence, which is so long and complicated that the apostle is forced, before getting to the end of it, slightly to vary the construction; a thing of very frequent occurrence in his writings. He dwells so long in vs. 2, 3, 4, on the natural state of the Ephesians, that he is obliged in v. 5, to repeat substantially the beginning of v. 1, in order to complete the sentence there commenced. ‘You dead on account of sin,—wherein ye walked according to the course of the world, subject to Satan, associated with the children of disobedience, among whom we also had our conversation, and were the children of wrath even as others—us, dead on account of trespasses hath God quickened.’ This is the way the passage stands. It is plain, therefore, that the sentence begun in the first verse, is resumed with slight variation in the fifth. This is the view taken by our translators, who borrow from the fifth verse the verb ἐζωοποίησε necessary to complete the sense of the first.
Paul describes his readers before their conversion as dead. In Scripture the word life is the term commonly used to express a state of union with God, and death a state of alienation from him. Life, therefore, includes holiness, happiness and activity; and death, corruption, misery and helplessness. All the higher forms of life are wanting in those spiritually dead; they are secluded from all the sources of true blessedness, and they are beyond the reach of any help from creatures. They are dead.
The English version renders the clause, τοῖς παραπτώμασι καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις, ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ But there is no preposition in the original text, and therefore, the great majority of commentators consider the apostle as assigning the cause, and not describing the nature of this death, ‘Dead on account of trespasses and sins.’44Dicit mortuos fuisse: et simul exprimit mortis causam; nempe peccata.—CALVIN. The former of these words is generally considered as referring to outward transgressions, the latter is more indefinite, and includes all sinful manifestations of ἁμαρτία, i. e. of sin considered as an inherent principle.55"The word ἁμαρτίαι," says HARLESS, "has, according to the metonymical use of the plurals of abstract nouns, a different sense from the singular; viz. manifestations of sin, undetermined however, whether by word or deed or some other way. The assertion of David Schulz that ἁμαρτία never expresses a condition, but always an act, deserves no refutation, as such refutation may be found in any grammar."
V. 2. Wherein in time past ye walked. Their former condition, briefly described in the first verse, as a state, of spiritual death, is in this and the verses following. more particularly characterized. They walked in sin. They were daily conversant with it, and devoted to it. They were surrounded by it, and clothed with it. They lived according to the course of this world. In this clause we have not only the character of their life stated, but the governing principle which controlled their conduct. They lived according to, and under the control of, the spirit of the world. The expression τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου does not elsewhere occur, and is variously explained. The most common interpretation assumes that the word αἰών is here used in its classical, rather than its Jewish sense. It is referred to the old verb ἄω, to breathe, and hence means, breath, vital principle, life, life-time, and then duration indefinitely. According to the life of this world, therefore, means ‘according to the ruling principle, or spirit of the world.’ This is substantially the sense expressed in our version, and is much to be preferred to any other interpretation. In all such forms of speech the depravity of men is taken for granted. To live after the manner of men, or according to the spirit of the world, is to live wickedly, which of course implies that men are wicked; that such is the character of the race in the sight of God.
Others, adhering to the New Testament sense of the αἰών, translate this clause thus: according to the age of this world, i. e. in a way suited to the present age of the world, as it is now, compared to what it is to be when Christ comes. Others again give αἰών a Gnostic sense—according to the Eon of this world, i. e. the devil. To this Meyer objects: 1. That it is more than doubtful whether any distinct reference to nascent Gnosticism is to be found in this epistle; and 2. That such a designation of Satan would have been unintelligible to all classes of readers.
This subjection to sin is, at the same time, a subjection to Satan, and therefore the apostle adds, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, according to the prince of the power of the air. In 2 Cor. 4, 4, Satan is called the god, and in John 12, 31, the prince, of this world. He is said to be the prince of the demons. Matt. 9, 34. A kingdom is ascribed to him, which is called the kingdom of darkness. All wicked men and evil spirits are his subjects, and are led captive by him at his will. It is according to this ruler of the darkness of this world, agreeably to his will and under his control, that the Ephesians lived before their conversion. Though there is perfect unanimity among commentators, that the phrase τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας is a designation of Satan, there is much difference of opinion as to the precise import of the terms. First, the genitive, ἐξουσίας, may be taken as qualifying the preceding noun—‘Prince of the power,’ for ‘powerful prince,’ or, ‘prince to whom power belongs.’ Or, secondly, ἐξουσία may be taken metonymically for those over whom power is exercised, i. e. kingdom, as it is used in Col. 1, 13. Or, thirdly, it may designate those to whom power belongs, as in the preceding ch. v. 21. ‘All principality and power’ there means, all those who have dominion and power. This last mentioned explanation is the one generally preferred, because most in accordance with Paul’s use of the word, and because the sense thus obtained is so suited to the context and the analogy of Scripture. Satan is the prince of the powers of the air, i. e. of those evil spirits, who are elsewhere spoken of as subject to his dominion.
Of the air. The word ἀήρ signifies either the atmosphere, or darkness. The whole phrase, therefore, may mean either, the powers who dwell in the air, or the powers of darkness. In favour of the former explanation is the common meaning of the word, and the undoubted fact that both among the Greeks and Jews it was the current opinion of that age that our atmosphere was the special abode of spirits. In favour of the latter, it may be urged that the Scriptures nowhere else recognize or sanction the doctrine that the air is the dwelling place of spirits. That opinion, therefore, in the negative sense at least, is unscriptural, i. e. has no scriptural basis, unless in this place. And secondly, the word σκότος, darkness, is so often used just as ἀήρ is here employed, as to create a strong presumption that the latter was meant to convey the same meaning as the former. Thus, "the power of darkness," Luke 22, 53; "the rulers of darkness," Eph. 6, 12; "the kingdom of darkness," Col. 1, 13, are all scriptural expressions, and are all used to designate the kingdom of Satan. Thirdly, this signification of the word is not without the authority of usage. The word properly, especially in the earlier writers, means the lower, obscure, misty atmosphere, as opposed to αἰθήρ, the pure air. Hence it means obscurity, darkness, whatever hides from sight.
There is a third interpretation of this phrase, which retains the common meaning of the word, but makes it express the nature and not the abode of the powers spoken of. ‘Of the earth’ may mean earthy; so ‘of the air’ may mean aerial. These demons do not belong to our earth, they have not a corporeal nature; they belong to a different and higher order of beings. They are aerial or spiritual. This passage is thus brought into accordance with what is said in Eph. 6, 12. Evil spirits are there said to be ‘in heavenly places,’ i. e. in heaven. That is, they do not belong to this earth; they are heavenly in their nature, as spirits without the trammels of flesh and blood. Such at least is one interpretation of Eph. 6, 12. By powers of the air, according to this view, we are to understand, unearthly, superhuman, incorporeal, spiritual beings over whom Satan reigns. This interpretation seems to have been the one generally adopted in the early church.
The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος, κτλ. This again is a difficult clause. Our version assumes that the word πνεύματος, spirit, is in apposition with the word ἄρχοντα, prince. ‘The prince of the power of the air, i. e. the spirit, who now works in the children of disobedience.’ The objection to this is that πνεύματος is in the genitive and ἄρχοντα in the accusative. This interpretation therefore cannot be adopted without assuming an unusual grammatical irregularity. Others prefer taking πνεύματος as in apposition to ἐξουσίας. The sense is then either: ‘Prince of the power of the air, i. e. prince of the spirit, i. e. spirits, who now work;’ or, ‘Prince of the spirit, which controls the children of disobedience.’ The former of these expositions gives a good sense. Satan is the prince of those spirits who are represented in Scripture as constantly engaged in leading men into sin. But it does violence to the text, as there is no other case where the singular πνεῦμα is thus used collectively for the plural. To the latter interpretation it may be objected that the sense thus obtained is feeble and obscure, if the word spirit is made to mean ‘disposition of men;’ which, to say the least, is a very vague and indefinite expression, and furnishes no proper parallelism to the preceding clause "powers of the air." But by spirit may be meant the evil principle which works in mankind. Compare 1 Cor. 2, 12. Luther and Calvin both give the same interpretation that is adopted by our translators. Beza, Bengel, and most of the moderns make spirit mean the spirit of the world as opposed to the Spirit of God.
The phrase children of disobedience (ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας) does not mean disobedient children—for that would imply that those thus designated were represented as the children of God, or children of men, who were disobedient. The word children expresses their relation, so to speak, to disobedience, which is the source of their distinctive character. The word son is often used in Scripture to express the idea of derivation or dependence in any form. Thus the ’sons of famine’ are the famished; the ’sons of Belial’ are the worthless; the ’sons of disobedience’ are the disobedient. The word ἀπείθεια means, unwillingness to be persuaded, and is expressive either of disobedience in general, or of unbelief which is only one form of disobedience. In this case the general sense is to be preferred, for the persons spoken of are not characterized as unbelievers, or as obstinately rejecting the gospel, but as disobedient or wicked. The fact asserted in this clause, viz., that Satan and evil spirits work in men, or influence their opinions, feelings and conduct, is often elsewhere taught in Scripture. Matt. 13, 38. John 12, 31; 8, 44. Acts 26, 18. 2 Cor. 4, 4. The fact is all that concerns us, we need not understand how they exert this influence. We do not know how the intercourse of disembodied spirits is conducted, and therefore cannot tell how such spirits have access to our minds to control their operations. The influence, whatever it is, and however effectual it may be, does not destroy our freedom of action, any more than the influence of one man over his fellows. Still it is an influence greatly to be dreaded. These spirits of wickedness are represented as far more formidable adversaries than those who are clothed in flesh and blood. Blessed are those for whom Christ prays, as he did for Peter, when he sees them surrounded by the wiles of the devil.
V. 3. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past. It appears not only from ch. 1: 11, 13, and from the connection in this place, but still more clearly from v. 11 and those following, in this chapter, that by you in this whole epistle, the apostle means Gentiles; and by we, when the pronouns are contrasted as here, the Jews. The spiritual condition of the Ephesians before their conversion was not peculiar to them as Ephesians or as heathen. All men, Jews and Gentiles, are by nature in the same state. Whatever differences of individual character, whatever superiority of one age or nation over another may exist, these are but subordinate diversities. There is as to the main point, as this apostle elsewhere teaches. no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is also no essential difference as to the way in which different communities or individuals manifest the depravity common to them all. There is very great difference as to the degree and the grossness of such manifestations, but in all the two comprehensive forms under which the corruption of our nature reveals itself, "the desires of the flesh and of the mind," are clearly exhibited. The apostle therefore does not hesitate to associate his countrymen with the Gentiles in this description of their moral condition, although the former were in many respects so superior to the latter. Nay, he does not hesitate to include himself, though he was before his conversion as ‘touching the righteousness which is of the law blameless.’ All men, whatever their outward conduct may be, in their natural state have "a carnal mind" as opposed to "a spiritual mind." See Rom. 8, 5-7. They are all governed by the things which are seen and temporal, instead of those which are not seen and eternal. Paul therefore says of himself and fellow Jews that they all had their conversation among the children of disobedience. They were not separated from them as a distinct and superior class, but were associated with them, congenial in character and life.
Wherein this congeniality consisted is stated in the following clauses. As the Gentiles so also the Jews had their conversation, i. e. they lived in the lusts of the flesh. The word ἐπιθυμία, lust, means strong desire, whether good or bad. In Scripture most commonly it is taken in a bad sense, and means inordinate desire of any kind. The ‘lusts of the flesh’ are those irregular desires which have their origin in the flesh. By the flesh, however, is not to be understood merely our sensuous nature, but our whole nature considered as corrupt. The scriptural usage of the word σάρξ is very extensive. It means the material flesh, then that which is external, then that which is governed by what is material, and in so far sinful; then that which is sinful without that limitation; whatever is opposed to the Spirit, and in view of all these senses it means mankind. See Phil. 3, 4, where the apostle includes under the word flesh, his descent from the Hebrews, his circumcision, and his legal righteousness. Gal. 3, 3. 5, 19-21. In this latter passage, envy, hatred, heresy, are included among the works of the flesh, as well as revellings and drunkenness. It depends on the immediate context whether the word, in any given place, is to be understood of our whole nature considered as corrupt, or only of the sensuous or animal part of that nature. When it stands opposed to what is divine, it means what is human and corrupt; when used in opposition to what is intellectual or spiritual in our nature, it means what is sensuous. In the present case it is to be taken in its wide sense because there is nothing to limit it, and because in the following clause it is defined as including both,—"the desires of the flesh (in the restricted sense of the word) and of the mind." The word θελήματα rendered desires, means rather behests, commands. The things done were those which the flesh and the mind willed to be done. They were the governing principles to whose will obedience was rendered. Διανοία, mind, is used here for the whole thinking and sentient principle, so far as distinguished from the animal principle. Frequently it means the intellect, here it refers more to the affections. Comp. Col. 1, 21, "Enemies in your mind." Lev. 19, 7, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy mind." Numbers 15, 39, "Follow not after your own minds." Jews and Gentiles, all men, therefore, are represented in their natural state as under the control of evil. They fulfil the commands of the flesh and of the mind.
And were by nature the children of wrath even as others, καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς. The expression " \children of wrath," agreeably to a Hebrew idiom above referred to, means ‘the objects of wrath,’ obnoxious to punishment. Compare Deut. 25, 2, ’son of stripes,’ one to be beaten. 1 Sam. 20, 31. 2 Sam. 12, 5, ’son of death,’ one certainly to die. The idea of worthiness is not included in the expression, though often implied in the context. The phrase ’son of death,’ means one who is to die, whether justly or unjustly. So ‘children of wrath,’ means simply ‘the objects of wrath.’ But as the wrath spoken of is the displeasure of God, of course the idea of ill-desert is necessarily implied.
The word φύσις in signification
and usage corresponds very nearly to our word nature. When used, as in this case,
to indicate the source or origin of any
thing in the character or condition, it always expresses what is natural or innate,
as opposed to what is made, taught, superinduced, or in any way incidental or acquired.
This general idea is of course variously modified by the nature of the thing spoken
of. Thus when the apostle says, Gal. 2, 15,
ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι, we by nature Jews,
he means Jews by birth, in opposition to profession. In
Gal. 4, 8, it is said of the heathen deities that they are not by nature
gods, they are such only by appointment, or in virtue of the opinions of men. In
Rom. 2, 13, men are said to do by nature the things of the law,
i. e. the source of these moral acts is to be sought in their natural
constitution, not in the instruction or example of others. In
Rom. 2, 27, uncircumcision is said to be by nature, i. e.
natural, not acquired. This usage is common in the classic writers. Thus Plato,
de Legibus, lib. 10, says, ‘Some teach that the gods are
οὑ φύσει, ἀλλὰ τισὶ νόμοις,’ i. e.
that they owe their divinity not to nature but to certain laws. Afterwards he says,
‘Some things are right by nature, others by law.’ In another place, he says, of
certain persons, ‘They were φύσει barbarians,
νόμῳ Greeks;’ by birth barbarians, but by
law Greeks. In these writers the expressions, ‘by nature selfish,’ ‘by nature swift
to anger,’ ‘by nature avaricious,’ &c., are of very frequent occurrence. In all
such cases the general sense is the same. The thing predicated is affirmed to be
natural. It is referred to the natural constitution or condition as opposed to what
is acquired. According to this uniform usage the expression, ‘We
were by nature the children of wrath,’ can only mean, ‘We were born in that condition.’
It was something natural. We did not become the children of wrath, but were already
such as we were born.66
In this interpretation commentators of all classes agree.
RUECKERT, one of the ablest and most untrammelled of the
recent German commentators, says: "It is perfectly evident from
Rom. 5, 12-20, that Paul was far from being opposed to the view expressed
in Ps. 51, 7, that men are born sinners;
and as we interpret for no system, so we will not attempt to deny that the thought,’
we were born children of wrath,’ i. e. such as we were from our birth
we were exposed to the divine wrath, is the true sense of the words."
HARLESS, a commentator of higher order, says: " Unless we choose to explain the word φύσει in a senseless and inconsistent manner, we can account for its use only by admitting that Paul proceeds on the assumption of an enmity to God at present natural and indwelling. And since such a native condition is not a fatuity, we can properly acknowledge no other explanation of the fact here incidentally mentioned, than that which in perfect consistency with the whole apostolic system of doctrine, is given in Rom. 5th." The simple fact is asserted, not the reason of it. It is by nature, not on account of nature that we are here declared to be the children of wrath. The Scriptures do indeed teach the doctrine of inherent, hereditary depravity, and that that depravity is of the nature of sin, and therefore justly exposes us to the divine displeasure. And this doctrine may be fairly implied in the text, but it is not asserted. In other words, φύσις does not mean natural depravity, and the dative (φύσει) does not here mean on account of. The assertion is that men are born in a state of condemnation, and not that their nature is the ground of that condemnation. This is, indeed, an old and widely extended interpretation; but it does violence to the force of the word φύσις, which means simply nature, and not either holy or corrupt nature. The idea of moral character may be implied in the context, but is not expressed by the word. When we say, ‘a man is by nature kind,’ it is indeed implied that his nature is benevolent, but nature does not signify ‘natural benevolence.’ Thus when it is said, men are ‘by nature corrupt,’ or, ‘by nature the children of wrath,’ all that is asserted is that they are born in that condition.
Others take φύσις to mean in this place simply disposition, character, inward state of mind; very much as we often use the word heart. According to this view, the word means not quod nascenti inest, sed quod consuetudo in naturam vertit. The sense then is: ‘We, as well as others are, as to our inward disposition or state of mind, children of wrath.’ All the expressions quoted by Clericus and other advocates of this interpretation, are really proofs that the word φύσις has not the signification which they assign to it. When it is said that Barbarians are by nature rapacious, the Syrians by nature fickle, the Lacedemonians taciturn, more is meant than that such is the actual character of these people. The characteristic trait asserted of them is referred to what is innate or natural. In other words φύσις does not mean, in such cases, simply disposition, but innate disposition.
Still more remote from the proper meaning of the terms is the interpretation which renders φύσει truly, really. This is substituting an idea implied in the context for the signification of the word. When Paul says, the heathen deities are not by nature gods, he does indeed say they are not really gods; but this does not prove that by nature means truly.
Another exposition of this passage is, that the apostle here refers to the incidental cause of our being the children of wrath. Our exposure to the divine displeasure is due to our nature, because that nature being what it is, filled with various active principles innocent or indifferent, leads us into sin, and we thus become children of wrath. It is not by nature, but durch Entwickelung natürlicher Disposition, ‘through the development of natural disposition,’ as Meyer expresses this idea. This is a theological hypothesis rather than an interpretation. When it is said men are by nature desirous of truth, by nature honest, by nature cruel, more is affirmed than that they become such, under the influence of natural principles of which these characteristics cannot be predicated. The very reverse is the thing asserted. It is affirmed that love of truth, honesty, or cruelty are attributes of the nature of those spoken of. In like manner when it is said, ‘We are by nature the children of wrath,’ the very thing denied is, that we become such by a process of development. The assertion is that we are such by nature, as we were born. The truth here taught, therefore, is that which is so clearly presented in other parts of Scripture, and so fully confirmed by the history of the world and faith of the church, viz. that mankind as a race are fallen; they had their probation in Adam, and therefore are born in a state of condemnation. They need redemption from the moment of their birth; and therefore the seal of redemption is applied to them in baptism, which otherwise would be a senseless ceremony.
V. 4. The apostle having thus described the natural state of men, in this and the following verses, unfolds the manner in which those to whom he wrote had been delivered from that dreadful condition. It was by a spiritual resurrection. God, and not themselves, was the author of the change. It was not to be referred to any goodness in them, but to the abounding love of God. The objects of this love were not Jews in distinction from the Gentiles, nor the Gentiles as such, nor men in general, but us, i. e. Christians, the actual subjects of the life-giving power here spoken of. All this is included in this verse.
Ὁ δὲ Θεὸς, but God, i. e. notwithstanding our guilt and corruption, God, being rich in mercy, πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, i. e. because he is rich in mercy. Ἔλεος is, ipsum miseris succurrendi studium,’ the desire to succour the miserable;’ οἰκτιρμός is pity. Love is more than either. It was not merely mercy which has all the miserable for its object; but love which has definite individual persons for its objects, which constrained this intervention of God for our salvation. Therefore the apostle adds, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ. Διά is not to be rendered through, but on account of. It was to satisfy his love, that he raised us from the death of sin.
V. 5. Καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς. The conjunction καὶdoes not serve merely to resume the connection; nor is it to be referred to ἡμᾶς, us also, us as well as others; but it belongs to the participle.—‘And being,’ i. e. even when we were dead in trespasses. Notwithstanding our low, and apparently helpless condition, God interfered for our recovery.
Συνεζωοποίησε τῷ Χριστῷ, he quickened us together with Christ. Ζωοποιεῖν means, to make alive, to impart life. In the New Testament it is almost always used of the communication of the life of which Christ is the author. It either comprehends every thing which is included in salvation, the communication of life in its widest scriptural sense; or it expresses some one point or moment in this general life-giving process. As the death from which the Christian is delivered includes condemnation (judicial death), pollution, and misery; so the life which he receives comprehends forgiveness (justification), regeneration, and blessedness. Thus in 2 Cor. 2, 12. 13, the apostle says, "And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." As, however, in the passage before us, the words "hath raised us up," and "hath made us to sit in heavenly places," are connected with the word "he hath quickened," the latter must be limited to the commencement of this work of restoration. That is, it here expresses deliverance from death and the imparting of life, and not the whole work of salvation.
We are said to be ‘quickened together with Christ.’ This does not mean merely that we are quickened as he was, that there is an analogy between his resurrection from the grave, and our spiritual resurrection; but the truth here taught is that which is presented in Rom. 6, 6. 8. Gal. 2, 19. 20. 2 Cor. 5, 14. 1 Cor. 15, 22. 23, and in many other passages, viz. that in virtue of the union, covenant and vital, between Christ and his people, his death was their death, his life is their life, and his exaltation is theirs. Hence all the verbs used in this connection, συνεζωοποίησε, συνήγειρε, συνεκάθισε, are in the past tense. They express what has already taken place, not what is future; not what is merely in prospect. The resurrection, the quickening and raising up of Christ’s people were in an important sense accomplished, when he rose from the dead and sat down at the right hand of God. Εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀπαρχὴ ζῆ, καὶ ἡμεῖς, is the pregnant comment of Chrysostom. The life of the whole body is in the head, and therefore when the head rose, the body rose. Each in his order however; first Christ, and then they that are Christ’s.
The apostle says, by way of parenthesis, by grace are ye saved. The gratuitous nature of salvation is one of the most prominent ideas of the context and of the epistle. The state of men was one of helplessness and ill-desert. Their deliverance from that state is due to the power and the unmerited love of God. They neither deserved to be saved, nor could they redeem themselves. This truth is so important and enters so deeply into the very nature of the Gospel, that Paul brings it forward on every fit occasion. And if the mode in which le speaks of our deliverance, does not of itself show it to be gratuitous, he introduces the declaration parenthetically, lest it should be for a moment forgotten.
V. 6. And hath raised us up and caused us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is an amplification of what precedes. In its widest sense the life, which in v. 5 is said to be given to us, includes the exaltation expressed in this verse. It is, therefore, only by way of amplification that the apostle, after saying we are made partakers of the life of Christ, adds that we are raised up and enthroned with him in heaven. To understand this we must know what is here meant by "heavenly places," and in what sense believers are now the subjects of the exaltation here spoken of. Throughout this epistle the expression "heavenly places" means heaven. But the latter phrase has in Scripture a wide application. It means not only the atmospheric heavens in which the clouds have their habitation; and the stellar heavens in which the sun, moon and stars dwell; and the third heavens, i. e. the place where God specially manifests his presence and where the glorified body of Christ now is, but also the state into which believers are introduced by their regeneration. In this last sense it coincides with one of the meanings of the phrase "kingdom of heaven." It is that state of purity, exaltation and favour with God, into which his children are even in this world introduced. The opposite state is called "the kingdom of Satan;" and hence men are said to be translated from "the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son." It is in this sense of the word that we are said, Phil. 3, 20, to be the citizens of heaven. We, if Christians, belong not to the earth, but heaven; we are within the pale of God’s kingdom; we are under its laws; we have in Christ a title to its privileges and blessings, and possess, alas! in what humnble measure, its spirit. Though we occupy the lowest place of this kingdom, the mere suburbs of the heavenly city, still we are in it. The language of the apostle in the context will appear the less strange, if we apprehend aright the greatness of the change which believers, even in this life, experience. They are freed from the condemnation of the law, from the dominion of Satan, from the lethargy and pollution of spiritual death; they are reconciled to God, made partakers of his Spirit, as the principle of everlasting life; they are adopted into his family and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God both in this life and in that which is to come. This is a change worthy of being expressed by saying: "He hath quickened us, and raised us up, and made us to sit together with Christ in heavenly places."—All this is in Christ. It is in virtue of their union with Christ that believers are partakers of his life and exaltation. They are to reign with him. The blessings then of which tile apostle here speaks, are represented as already conferred for two reasons: first, because they are in a measure already enjoyed; and secondly, because the continuance and consummation of these blessings are rendered certain by the nature of the union between Christ and his people. In him they are already raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God.
V. 7. Why has God done all this? Why from eternity has he chosen us to be holy before him in love? Why has he made us accepted in the Beloved? Why when dead in trespasses and sins hath he quickened us, raised us up and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ? The answer to these questions is given in this verse. It was, in order that, in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus, ἵνα ἐνδείξηται—τον πλοῦτον τῆς χάριτος—ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς. The manifestation of the grace of God, i. e. of his unmerited love, is declared to be the specific object of redemption. From this it follows that whatever clouds the grace of God, or clashes with the gratuitous nature of the blessings promised in the gospel, must be inconsistent with its nature and design. If the salvation of sinners be intended as an exhibition of the grace of God, it must of necessity be gratuitous.
The words, in the ages to come, ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις, are by many understood to refer to the future generations in this world; secula, aetates seu tempora inde ab apostolicis illis ad finem mundi secuturas, as Wolf expresses it. Calvin, who understands the apostle to refer specially to the calling of the Gentiles in the preceding verses, gives the same explanation. Gentium vocatio mirabile est divinae bonitatis opus, quod filiis parentes et avi nepotibus tradere per manus debent, ut nunquam ex hominum animis silentio deleatur. As however there is nothing in the context to restrict the language of the apostle to the Gentiles, so there is nothing to limit the general expression ages to come to the present life. Others, restricting verse 6th to the resurrection of the body, which is to take place at the second advent of Christ, understand the phrase in question to mean the ‘world to come,’ or the period subsequent to Christ’s second coming. Then, when the saints are raised up in glory, and not before, will the kindness of God towards them be revealed. But the preceding verse does not refer exclusively to the final resurrection of the dead, and therefore this phrase does not designate the period subsequent to that event. It is better therefore to take it without limitation, for all future time.
The simplest construction of the passage supposes that ἐν χρηστότητι is to be connected with ἐνδείξηται; ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς with χρηστότητι, and ἐν Χριστῷ with the words immediately preceding. God’s grace is manifested through his kindness towards us, and that kindness is exercised through Christ and for his sake. The ground of this goodness is not in us but in Christ, and hence its character as grace, or unmerited favour.
Vs. 8, 9. These verses confirm the preceding declaration. The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation is entirely of grace. Ye are saved by grace; ye are saved by faith and not by works; and even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. We have then here a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the gratuitous nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, ‘ye are saved by grace,’ but further that salvation is by faith, i. e. by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. From the very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, it excludes the idea of merit. If by faith, it is of grace; if of works, it is of debt; as the apostle argues in Rom. 4, 4. 5. Faith, therefore, is the mere causa apprehendens, the simple act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed. Not of works. The apostle says works, without qualification or limitation. It is not, therefore, ceremonial, as distinguished from good works; or legal, as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works; but works of all kinds as distinguished from faith, which are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for to him that worketh the reward is a matter of debt. But salvation is of grace and therefore not of works lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4, 2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.
The only point in the interpretation of these verses of any doubt, relates to the second clause. What is said to be the gift of God? Is it salvation, or faith? The words καὶ τοῦτο only serve to render more proninent the matter referred to. Compare Rom. 13, 11. 1 Cor. 6, 6. Phil. 1, 28. Heb. 11, 12. They may relate to faith (τὸ πιστεύειν), or to the salvation spoken of (σεσωσμένους εἶναι). Beza, following the fathers, prefers the former reference; Calvin, with most of the modern commentators, the latter. The reasons in favour of the former interpretation are, 1. It best suits the design of the passage. The object of the apostle is to show the gratuitous nature of salvation. This is most effectually done by saying, ‘Ye are not only saved by faith in opposition to works, but your very faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.’ 2. The other interpretation makes the passage tautological. To say: ‘Ye are saved by faith; not of yourselves; your salvation is the gift of God; it is not of works,’ is saying the same thing over and over without any progress. Whereas to say: ‘Ye are saved through faith (and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God), not of works,’ is not repetitious; the parenthetical clause instead of being redundant does good service and greatly increases the force of the passage. 3. According to this interpretation the antithesis between faith and works, so common in Paul’s writings, is preserved. ‘Ye are saved by faith, not by works, lest any man should boast.’ The middle clause of the verse is therefore parenthetical, and refers not to the main idea ye are saved, but to the subordinate one through faith, and is designed to show how entirely salvation is of grace, since even faith by which we apprehend the offered mercy, is the gift of God. 4. The analogy of Scripture is in favor of this view of the passage, in so far that elsewhere faith is represented as the gift of God. 1 Cor. 1, 26-31. Eph. 1, 19. Col. 2, 12, et passim.
V. 10. That salvation is thus entirely the work of God, and that good works cannot be the ground of our acceptance with him, is proved in this verse—1st. By showing that we are God’s workmanship. He, and not ourselves, has made us what we are. And 2d. By the consideration that we are created unto good works. As the fact that men are elected unto holiness, proves that holiness is not the ground of their election; so their being created unto good works shows that good works are not the ground on which they are made the subjects of this new creation, which is itself incipient salvation.
Αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα. The position of the pronoun at the beginning of the sentence renders it emphatic. His workmanship are we. He has made us Christians. Our faith is not of ourselves. It is of God that we are in Christ Jesus. The sense in which we are the workmanship of God is explained in the following clause, created in Christ Jesus; for if any man is in Christ he is a new creature. Union with him is a source of a new life, and a life unto holiness; and therefore it is said created unto good works. Holiness is the end of redemption, for Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. Titus 2, 14. Those therefore who live in sin are not the subjects of this redemption.
Οἱ̂ς προητοίμασε, is variously interpreted. The verb signifies properly to prepare beforehand. As this previous preparation may be in the mind, in the form of a purpose, the word is often used in the sense of preordaining, or appointing. Compare Gen. 24, 14. Matt. 25, 34. 1 Cor. 2, 9. Rom. 9, 23. This however is rather the idea expressed in the context than the proper signification of the word. The relative is by Bengel and others connected, agreeably to a common Hebrew idiom, with the following pronoun, οἷς οἐν αὐτοῖς, in which, and the verb taken absolutely. The sense then is,’ In which God has preordained that we should walk.’ By the great majority of commentators οἷς is taken for ἅ, by the common attraction, ‘which God had prepared beforehand, in order that we should walk in them.’ Before our new creation these works were in the purpose of God prepared to be our attendants, in the midst of which we should walk. A third interpretation supposes οἷς to be used as a proper dative, and supposes ἡμᾶς as the object of the verb. ‘To which God has predestined us, that we should walk in them.’ The second of these explanations is obviously the most natural.
Thus has the apostle in this paragraph clearly taught that the natural state of man is one of condemnation and spiritual death; that from that condition believers are delivered by the grace of God in Christ Jesus; and the design of this deliverance is the manifestation, through all coming ages, of the exceeding riches of his grace.
SECTION II.—Vs. 11-22. 11.
11. Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12. that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world;
13. but now, in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15. having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances: for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16. and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17. and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18. For through him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20. and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21. in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord:
22. in whom ye also are builded together, for a habitation of God through the Spirit.
In the preceding paragraph the apostle had set forth—1. The moral and spiritual condition of the Ephesians by nature. 2. The spiritual renovation and exaltation which they had experienced. 3. The design of God in this dispensation. In this paragraph he exhibits the corresponding change in their relations. In doing this he sets forth:—
I. Their former relation—1st. To the church as foreigners and aliens. 2d. To God as those who were far off, without any saving knowledge of him, or interest in his promises, vs. 11. 12.
II. The means by which this alienation from God and the church had been removed, viz. by the blood of Christ. His death had a twofold effect.—l. By satisfying the demands of justice, it secured reconciliation with God. 2. By abolishing the law in the form of the Mosaic institutions, it removed the wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles. A twofold reconciliation was thus effected; the Jews and Gentiles are united in one body, and both are reconciled to God, vs. 13-18.
III. In consequence of this twofold reconciliation, the Ephesians were intimately united with God and his people. This idea is set forth under a threefold figure.—1. They are represented as fellow-citizens of the saints. 2. They are members of the family of God. 3. They are constituent portions of that temple in which God dwells by his Spirit, vs. 19-22.
The idea of the church which underlies this paragraph, is that which is every where presented in the New Testament. The church is the body of Christ. It consists of those in whom he dwells by his Spirit. To be alien from the church, therefore, is to be an alien from God. It is to be without Christ and without hope. The church of which this is said is not the nominal, external, visible church as such, but the true people of God. As, however, the Scriptures always speak of men according to their profession, calling those who profess faith, believers, and those who confess Christ, Christians; so they speak of the visible church as the true church, and predicate of the former what is true only of the latter. The Gentiles while aliens from the church were without Christ, without God, and without hope; when amalgamated with the church they became the habitation of God through the Spirit. Such many of them truly were, such they all professed to be, and they are therefore addressed in that character. But union with the visible church no more made them real partakers of the Spirit of Christ, than the profession of faith made them living believers.
V. 11. Wherefore remember, i. e. since God has done such great things for you, call to mind your former condition, as a motive both for humility and gratitude. That ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, ἔθνη ἐν σαρκί, i. e. uncircumcised heathen. This gives in a word the description of their former state. All that follows, in this and the succeeding verse, is but amplification of this idea. The words in the flesh, do not mean origine carnali, natalibus, by birth; nor as to external condition, which would imply that spiritually, or as to their internal state, they were not heathen. The context shows that it refers to circumcision, which being a sign in the flesh, is designated with sufficient clearness by the expression in the text. As circumcision was a rite of divine appointment, and the seal of God’s covenant with his people, to be uncircumcised was a great misfortune. It showed that those in that condition were without God and without hope. The apostle therefore adds, as explanatory of the preceding phrase, οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία, who are called Uncircumcision. This implied that they did not belong to the covenant people of God; and in the lips of the Jews it was expressive of a self-righteous abhorrence of the Gentiles as unclean and profane. This feeling on their part arose from their supposing that the mere outward rite of circumcision conveyed holiness and secured the favour of God. As the apostle knew that the circumcision of the flesh was in itself of no avail, and as he was far from sympathizing in the contemptuous feeling which the Jews entertained for the Gentiles, he tacitly reproves this spirit by designating the former as the so called circumcision in the flesh, made with hands. This is a description of the Israel κατὰ σάρκα, the external people of God, who were Jews outwardly, but who were destitute of the true circumcision which was of the heart. They were the concision, as the apostle elsewhere says, we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Phil. 3, 3. The Jews were a striking illustration of the effect of ascribing to external rites objective power, and regarding them as conveying grace and securing the favour of God, irrespective of the subjective state of the recipient. This doctrine rendered them proud, self-righteous, malignant, and contemptuous, and led them to regard religion as an external service compatible with unholiness of heart and life. This doctrine the apostle every where repudiates and denounces as fatal. And therefore in this connection, while speaking of the real advantage of circumcision, and of the covenant union with God of which it was the seal, he was careful to indicate clearly that it was not the circumcision in the flesh, made with hands, which secured the blessings of which he speaks. Compare Rom. 2, 25-29. 1 Cor. 7, 19. Phil. 3, 3-6. Col. 2, 11.
V. 12. The sentence begun in verse 11 is here resumed. Remember, ὅτι ἦτε τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ χωρὶς Χριστοῦ, that at that time ye were without Christ. This means more than that they were as heathen, destitute of the knowledge and expectation of the Messiah. As Christ is the only redeemer of men, and the only mediator between God and man, to be without Christ, was to be without redemption and without access to God. To possess Christ, to be in Him, is the sum of all blessedness; to be without Christ includes all evil.
What follows is a confirmation of what precedes. They were without Christ because aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. The idea of separation and estrangement is strongly expressed by the word ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι. They stood as ἄλλοι, as others, distinguished as a separate class from the people of God. The word πολιτεία means—1. Citizenship. 2. The order or constitution of the state. 3. The community or state itself. The last signification best suits the connection. Ἰσραήλ means the theocratical people; and πολιτεία τοῦ Ἰσραήλ is that community or commonwealth which was Israel. This includes the other senses, for in being aliens from the community of God’s people, they were of course destitute of citizenship among them, and outside of the theocratical constitution.
And strangers from the covenants of promise, καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας. The word covenants is in the plural because God entered repeatedly into covenant with his people. It is called a covenant of promise, or rather of the promise, because the promise of redemption was connected therewith. That the promise meant is that great promise of a redeemer made to Abraham, and so often afterwards repeated, is plain not only from the context, but from other passages of Scripture. "The promise made to the fathers," says the apostle, in Acts 13, 32, "hath God fulfilled in that lie hath raised up Jesus." Comp. Rom. 4, 14-16. Gal. 3, 16. As the heathen were not included in the covenant God made with his people, they had no interest. in the promise, the execution of which that covenant secured. Their condition was therefore most deplorable. They were without hope—ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες, not having hope. They had nothing to hope, because shut out of the covenant of promise. The promise of God is the only foundation of hope, and therefore those to whom there is no promise, have no hope. And having no hope of redemption, the great blessing promised, they were, in the widest sense of the word, hopeless. They were moreover without God, ἄθεοι. This may mean that they were atheists, in so far that they were destitute of the knowledge of the true God, and served those who by nature were no gods. Jehovah was not their God; they had no interest in him, they were without him. This includes the idea that they were forsaken of him—he had left them in the world. They stood outside of that community which belonged to God, who knew and worshipped him, to whom his promises were made, and in the midst of whom he dwelt. In every point, therefore, their condition as heathen afforded a melancholy contrast to that of the true people of God, and to that into which they had been introduced by the Gospel. Their alienation from the theocracy or church involved in it, or implied, a like alienation from God and his covenant.
V. 13. But now in Christ Jesus, i. e. in virtue of union with Christ; ὑμεῖς οἱ τοτε ὄντες μακρὰν, ἐγγὺς ἐγενήθητε, ye who sometime were afar of, are made nigh. As under the old dispensation God dwelt in the temple, those living near his abode and having access to him, were his people. Israel was near; the Gentiles were afar off. They lived at a distance, and had no liberty of access to the place where God revealed his presence. Hence in the prophets, as in Isaiah 49, 1. 57, 19, by those near are meant the Jews, and by those afar off the Gentiles. This form of expression passed over to the New Testament writers. Acts 2, 39, "The promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are far off." Eph. 2, 17, "Preached peace to you that were far off, and to them that were nigh." Among the later Jews the act of receiving a proselyte, was called "making him nigh."77The Rabbins said: Quicunque gentilem appropinquare facit, et proselytum facit, idem est ac si ipsum creasset. WETSTEIN. As being far from God included both separation from his people, and spiritual distance or alienation from himself; so to be brought nigh includes both introduction into the church and reconciliation with God. And these two ideas are clearly presented and intended by the apostle in this whole context. This twofold reconciliation is effected, ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ, by the blood of Christ. This clause is explanatory of the words at the beginning of the verse. ‘In Christ Jesus, i. e. by the blood of Christ, ye are made nigh.’ Without shedding of blood there is no remission and no reconciliation of sinners with God. When Moses ratified the covenant between God and his people, "He took the blood of calves and of goats and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you. It was necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Heb. 9, 19-23. As under the typical and ritual economy of the Old Testament the people were brought externally nigh to God, by the blood of calves and goats, through which temporal redemption was effected and the theocratical covenant was ratified; so we are brought spiritually nigh to God by the blood of Christ, who has obtained eternal redemption for us, being once offered to bear the sins of many, and to ratify by his death the covenant of God with all his people, whether Jews or Gentiles.
Vs. 14. 15. These verses contain a confirmation and illustration of what precedes. ‘Ye who were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace. He has effected the twofold reconciliation above referred to.’ This he has accomplished by abolishing the law. The law, however, is viewed in a twofold aspect in this connection. First, it was that original covenant of works, demanding perfect obedience, whose conditions must be satisfied in order to the reconciliation of men with God. Christ by being made under the law, Gal. 4, 4, and fulfilling all righteousness, has redeemed those who were under the law. He delivered them from the obligation of fulfilling its demands as the condition of their justification before God. In this sense they are not under the law. Comp. Rom. 6, 14. 7, 4. 6. Gal. 5, 18. Col. 2, 14. But secondly, as Christ abolished the law as a covenant of works by fulfilling its conditions, so he abolished the Mosaic law by fulfilling all its types and shadows. He was the end of the law in both these aspects, and therefore, it ceased to bind the people of God in either of these forms. Of this doctrine the whole of the New Testament is full. The epistles especially are in large measure devoted to proving that believers are not under the law in either of these senses, but under grace. Thus it is that Christ is our peace. The abolition of the law as a covenant of works reconciles us to God; the abolition of the Mosaic law removes the wall between the Jews and Gentiles. This is what is here taught. By abolishing the law of commandments, i. e. the law in both its forms, the apostle says, Christ has, first, of the twain made one new man, v. 15; and secondly, he has reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross, v. 16.
Though the general sense of this passage is plain, there is no little diversity as to the details of the interpretation. The Greek is printed for the convenience of the reader. Αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν, καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν, ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ, τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασι καταργήσας. Our translators, by assuming that ἔχθραν depends on καταργήσας, and of course that νόμον is in apposition with it, have in a great measure determined thereby the interpretation of the whole passage. The words μεσότοιχον, ἔχθραν, and νόμον must all refer to the same thing. The sense would then be, ‘For he is our peace, having made the two one by having destroyed the middle wall of partition, that is, by having destroyed, by his flesh, the enmity, viz., the law of commandments with ordinances.’ The preferable construction is to make ἔχθραν depend on λύσας. It is then in apposition with μεσότοιχον, but not with νόμον; and καταργήσας τὸν νόμον, instead of being a mere repetition of λύσας τὸ μεσότοιχον, is an independent clause explaining the manner in which the reconciliation of the Jews and Gentiles had been effected. The passage then means, ‘He is our peace because he has made the two one by removing the enmity or middle wall which divided the Jews and Gentiles, and this was done by abolishing the law.’ The reconciliation itself is expressed by saying, ‘He made the two one, having removed the wall or enmity between them.’ The mode in which this was done, is expressed by saying, ‘He abolished the law.’
In the phrase μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ, middle wall of partition, the latter noun is explanatory of the former, i. e. φραγμοῦ is the genitive of apposition. The middle wall which consisted in the hedge, which separated the two parties. What that hedge was is immediately expressed by the word ἔχθραν. It was the enmity subsisting between them. ‘Having removed the middle wall, i. e. the enmity, or their mutual hatred.’ By enmity, therefore, is not to be understood the law, as the cause of this alienation, but the alienation itself; because in what follows the removal of the enmity and the abolition of the law are distinguished from each other, the latter being the means of accomplishing the former.
That ἔχθραν is to be connected with λύσας and not, as our translation assumes, with καταργήσας, is argued first from the position of the words, which favours this construction; secondly, because the expression λύειν ἔχθραν is common, and καταργεῖν ἔχθραν never occurs; and thirdly, because the sense demands this construction, inasmuch as the ambiguous phrase middle wall of partition thus receives its needed explanation. The apostle first states, what it was that divided the Jews and Gentiles, viz., their mutual hatred, and then how that hatred had been removed.
The words ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ, are not to be connected with λύσας. That is, the apostle does not mean to say that Christ has removed the enmity between the Jews and Gentiles by his flesh. They are to be connected with the following participle (καταργήσας). "Having by his flesh, i. e. by his death, abolished the law." This is the great truth which Paul had to teach. Christ by his death has freed us from the law. We are no longer under the law but under grace. Rom. 6, 14. We are no longer required to seek salvation on the ground of obedience to the law, which says: "Do this, and live," and "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." Christ has freed us from the law as a covenant of works, by being himself made subject to it, Gal. 4, 5; by bearing its penalty, Gal. 3, 13; by his body, Rom. 7, 4; by the body of his flesh, Col. 1, 22; by his cross, Col. 2, 14. In this connection the expressions, "by the blood of Christ," v. 13; "by his flesh," v. 14; by his cross," all mean the same thing. They are but different modes of expressing his sacrificial, or atoning death, by which the law was satisfied and our reconciliation to God is effected. The "abolishing," therefore, of which the apostle speaks, does not consist in setting the law aside, or suspending it by a sovereign, executive act. It is a causing it to cease; or rendering it no longer binding by satisfying its demands, so that we are judicially free from it; free not by the act of a sovereign but by the sentence of a judge; not by mere pardon, but by justification. Who is he that condemns, when God justifies? Rom. 8, 34. The law which Christ has thus abolished is called "the law of commandments in ordinances." This may mean the law of commandments with ordinances-referring to the two classes of laws (ἐντολή and δόγμα), moral and positive; or it may refer to the form in which the precepts are presented in the law, as positive statutes, or commands, τῶν ἐντολῶν giving the contents of the law, and ἐν δόγμασι the form. The idea probably is that the law in all its compass, and in all its forms, so far as it was a covenant prescribing the conditions of salvation, is abolished. The law of which the apostle here speaks is not exclusively the Mosaic law. It is so described in various parallel passages, as holy, just and good, as taking cognizance of the inward feelings, as to make it evident it is the law of God in its widest sense. It is the law which binds the heathen and which is written on their hearts. It is the law fiom which the death of Christ redeems men. But redemption is not mere deliverance from Judaism, and therefore the law from which we are freed by the death of Christ is not merely the law of Moses. Deliverance from the Mosaic institutions could not have the effects ascribed to the freedom from the law of which Paul speaks. It could not secure reconciliation to God, justification, and holiness, all of which, according to the apostle, flow from the redemption effected by Christ. The antithetical ideas always presented in Paul’s writings, on this subject, are the law and grace, the law and tile gospel, the system which says: "Do and live,"—and the system which says: "Believe and live;"—as, however, the form in which the law was ever present to the minds of the early Christians was that contained in the Mosaic institutions; as all, who in that day were legalists, were Judaizers, and as the Mosaic economy was included in the law which Christ abolished, in many cases (as in the passage before us), special reference is had to the law in that particular form. But in teaching that men cannot be saved by obedience to the law of Moses, Paul taught that we cannot be saved by obedience to the law in any form. Or rather, by teaching that salvation is not of works of any kind, but of grace and through faith, he teaches it is not by the specific, ceremonial works enjoined in the law of Moses.
It is objected to the above interpretation of this passage, which is the common one, that in order to justify connecting ἐν δόγμασι with ἐντολῶν (the law of commandments in ordinances), the article should be used. It is therefore urged that ἐν δόγμασι must be connected with καταργήσας and the passage read, "having abolished by doctrine the law of commandments." To this, however, it is answered—1. That the connecting article is frequently omitted in cases where the qualifying word is intimately connected with the word to be qualified, so as to form one idea with it. See Eph. 2, 11. 2 Cor. 7, 7. Col. 1, 4. 2. That καταργήσας has its qualifying clause in the words ἐν τῇ σαρκί. It would be incongruous to say that Christ abolished the law by his death, by doctrine. 3. The word δόγμα never means doctrine in the New Testament, and therefore cannot have that meaning, here. 4. And finally the sense is bad, contrary to the whole analogy of Scripture. The law was not abolished by Christ as a teacher; but by Christ as a sacrifice. It was not by his doctrine, but by his blood, his body, his death, his cross, that our deliverance from the law was effected. The doctrine of the passage, therefore, is that the middle wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles, consisting in their mutual enmity, has been removed by Christ’s having, through his death, abolished the law in all its forms, as a rule of justification, and thus, opening one new way of access to God, common to Jews and Gentiles.
The design of Christ in thus abolishing the law was two-fold. First, the union of the Jews and Gentiles in one holy, Catholic church. And, Secondly, the reconciliation of both to God. The former is expressed, by saying: "In order that he might create the two, in himself, one new man, making peace." The two, τοὺς δύο, are of course the two spoken of above, the Jews and Gentiles. They were separate, hostile bodies, alike dead in trespasses and sins, equally the children of wrath. They are created anew, so as to become one body of which Christ is the head. And, therefore, it is said, ἐν ἑαυτῷ, in himself, i. e. in virtue of union with him. Union with Christ being the condition at once of their unity and of their holiness. They are created εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον. They are one, and they are new, i. e. renewed. Καινός means newly made, uninjured by decay or use; and in a moral sense renewed, pure. See 4, 24. 2 Cor. 5, 17. Gal. 6. 15. Col. 3, 10. Making peace, ποιῶν εἰρήνην. The present participle is here used, because the effect or operation is a continuous one. The union or peace which flows from the abrogation of the law by the death of Christ, is progressive, so far as it is inward or subjective. The outward work is done. The long feud in the human family. is healed. The distinction between Jew and Gentile is abolished. All the exclusive privileges of the former are abrogated. The wall which had so long shut out the nations is removed. There is now one fold and one shepherd. Since the abrogation of the law there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for all believers are one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3, 28.
V. 16. The second part of Christ’s purpose is expressed in this verse. It was that he might reconcile (ἀποκαταλλάξῃ) the two, united in one body, unto God, by means of the cross, having thereby slain the enmity. The end effected was reconciliation with God;—the subjects of this reconciliation are the church, the one body into which Jews and Gentiles are merged (so that the one is σύσσωμα with the other, Eph. 3, 6); the means of this reconciliation is the cross, because the crucifixion of our Lord removes the enmity which prevented the reconciliation here spoken of.
To reconcile is to effect peace and union between parties previously at variance. Neither the English nor Greek terms (διαλλάσσειν, καταλλάσσειν) indicate whether the change effected is mutual or only on one side. A child is reconciled to an offended father who receives him into favour, though the father’s feelings only have been changed. Whether the reconciliation effected by Christ between man and God results from an inward change in men, or from the propitiation of God—or whether both ideas are to be included, is determined not by the signification of the word, but by the context and the analogy of Scripture. When Christ is said to reconcile men to God, the meaning is that he propitiated God, satisfied the demands of his justice, and thus rendered it possible that he might be just and yet justify the ungodly. This is plain, because the reconciliation is always said to be effected by the death, the blood, the cross of Christ; and the proximate design of a sacrifice is to propitiate God, and not to convert the offerer or him for whom the offering is made. What in one place is expressed by saying Christ reconciled us to God, is in another place expressed by saying, he was a propitiation, or made propitiation for our sins.
The subjects of this reconciliation are the Jews and Gentiles united in one body, i. e. the church —τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι. His death had not reference to one class to the exclusion of the other. It was designed to bring unto God, the whole number of the redeemed, whether Jews or Gentiles, as one living body, filled with his Spirit as well as washed in his blood.
Many commentators understand the words "in one body" to refer to Christ’s own body, and the words "by the cross," at the close of the sentence, to be merely explanatory. The sense would then be, "That he might reconcile both unto God, by one body, i. e. by the one offering of himself, i. e. by his cross." The obvious objection to this interpretation is, that "one body" cannot naturally be explained to mean " one offering of his body." Besides this, the passage, vs. 13-16, would then repeat five times the idea: the sacrifice of Christ reconciled us to God. The natural opposition between "the two" and "the one body," favours the common interpretation. Christ created the two into one new man, and as thus united in one body, he reconciled both unto God.
The means by which this reconciliation was effected is the cross—because on it he slew the enmity which separated us from God. The latter clause of the verse is therefore explanatory of what precedes. ‘He reconciled both to God, having, by the cross, slain the enmity.’ The enmity in this place, as in v. 15, many understand to be the enmity between the Jews and Gentiles, and make the apostle say: ‘Christ by his crucifixion has destroyed the enmity between the Jews and Gentiles and then reconciled them thus united in one body to God.’ It is urged in favour of this interpretation that it is unnatural to make the word enmity in this verse and in verse 15 refer to different things. The great doctrine in the whole context is the unity of all believers, and therefore, that is to be kept in view. It is the enmity between the Jews and Gentiles and their union of which the apostle is treating. But that idea had just before been expressed. It is perfectly pertinent to the apostle’s object to show that the union between the Jews and Gentiles was effected by the reconciliation of both, by his atoning death, to God. The former flows from the latter. In this connection the words "having slain the enmity on it," serve to explain the declaration that the cross of Christ reconciles us to God. His death satisfied justice, it propitiated God, i. e. removed his wrath, or his enmity to sinners; not hatred, for God is love, but the calm and holy purpose to punish them for their sins. This view is sustained by the constantly recurring representations of Scripture. In Col. 1, 20-22, we have a passage which is exactly parallel to the one before us. It is there said, that God, having made peace by the blood of the cross, reconciled by Christ all things unto himself, and "you," the apostle adds, "that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death." Here it is obvious that the peace intended is peace between God and man. So too in Col. 2, 13. 14, it is said: "You being dead . . . hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." Here again the reconciliation is between man and God; the means, the cross—the mode, the abrogation or satisfaction of the law. The epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians are so much a reflection the one of the other, that they serve for mutual illustration. As there can be no doubt as to what Paul meant in the passages addressed to the Colossians, they serve to determine his meaning in the parallel passages to the Ephesians. The context, so far from opposing, favours the interpretation given above. Reconciliation involves the removal of enmity; the reconciliation is to God, therefore the enmity is that which subsisted between God and man—the peace announced in consequence of this reconciliation, verse 17, is peace with God; it consists in the liberty of access to him spoken of in verse 18. Thus all is natural in the relation of the several clauses to each other.
V. 17. And having come, he preached peace, for you afar of, and peace88The repetition of εἰρήνην before τοῖς ἐγγύς, has in its favour many of the oldest MSS. and versions, and is adopted by Lachmann, Meyer, and others. for those near. The connection is not with verse 14, but with verses 14-16. Christ having effected peace, announced it. This is the burden of the Gospel, Peace on earth, and good-will toward man. God is reconciled. Being justified by faith we have peace with God. Christ having redeemed us from the curse of the law; having reconciled us to God by his death, came and preached peace. To what preaching does the apostle refer? Some say to Christ’s personal preaching while here on earth. Having come, i. e. in the flesh, he preached. This supposes the connection is not with what immediately precedes, but with verse 14.—‘He is our peace, and having come into the world he preached peace.’ But this breaks the concatenation of the ideas. The reconciliation is represented as preceding the annunciation of it. Having died, he came and preached. The preaching is, therefore, the annunciation of the favour of God, made by Christ, either in person, or through his apostles and his Spirit. Having come, ἐλθών, is not redundant, nor does it refer to his coming into the world, but to that reappearing which took place after his resurrection, which was temporarily in person and continuous in his Spirit. He is with the church always, even to the end of the world; and it is his annunciation of peace which is made, by the word and Spirit, through the church. The peace meant, according to one interpretation, is peace between Jews and Gentiles, according to another, peace with God. The decision between the two depends on the view taken of the context. If the interpretation given above of the preceding verses be correct, then the peace here mentioned can only be peace with God. The dative ὑμῖν does not depend immediately on the verb, and point out the object to which the preaching was directed. It indicates those for whose benefit this peace has been procured. Christ announced that peace with God had, by the cross, been secured for those afar off, viz. the Gentiles. as well as for the Jews, or those who were nigh.
V. 18. The proof that peace has thus been obtained for both is, that both have equally free access to God. The ὅτι at the beginning of the verse is not to be rendered that, as indicating the nature of the peace; but since, as introducing the evidence that such peace was procured. That evidence is found in the fact that we have access to God. Had not his wrath been removed, Rom. 5, 10, the enmity been slain, we could have no access to the divine presence. And since Gentiles have as free access to God as the Jews, and upon the same terms and in the same way, it follows that the peace procured by the death of Christ, was designed for the one class as well as for the other.
Access is not mere liberty of approach; it is προσαγωγή, introduction. Christ did not die simply to open the way of access to God, but actually to introduce us into his presence and favour. This all Scripture teaches, and this the context demands. Those for whom the death of Christ has procured peace, are declared in what follows to be fellow-citizens of the saints; members of the family of God, constituent parts of that temple in which God dwells by his Spirit. It is a real not a mere potential redemption and reconciliation which the blood of Christ effects. He died, the just for the unjust, to bring us nigh unto God. This introduction into a state of grace, Rom. 5, 3, is not identical with the peace procured by Christ, but the effect or sequence of it. Having made propitiation, or secured peace, he introduces us as our mediator and advocate into the divine presence.
As to this access we are taught that it is —1. To the Father. 2. It is through Christ. 3. It is by the Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity as involved in the whole scheme of redemption, evidently underlies the representation contained in this passage. In the plan of salvation as revealed in Scripture, the Father represents the Godhead, or God absolutely. He gave a people to the Son, sent the Son for their redemption, and the Spirit to apply to them that redemption. Hence, in the beginning of this epistle, it is said that God as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy, having predestinated us to be his children. He, therefore, has made us acceptable in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood. It is the Father, therefore, as the apostle says, who has made known to us his purpose to reconcile all things unto himself by Jesus Christ. Thus also in Col. 1, 19. 20, it is said it pleased the Father that in him all fulness should dwell, and having made peace through the blood of the cross by him to reconcile all things unto himself. In 1 Cor. 8, 6, it is said there is to us one God even the Father, by whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we by him. This representation will be recognized as pervading the Scripture. It is the Father as representing the Godhead, to whom we are said to be reconciled, to be brought near, into whose family we are adopted, and of whose glory we are heirs.
Secondly, this access is through Christ. This means, 1st, as explained in the context, by his blood, his flesh, his cross. That is, it is by his vicarious death. It is by his dying, the just for the unjust, that he brings us near to God. 2. It is by his intercession, for he has not only died for us, but he has passed through the heavens there to appear before God for us. It is, therefore, through him, as our mediator, intercessor, introducer, forerunner, that we draw near to God. This is a truth so plainly impressed on the Scriptures and so graven on the hearts of believers, that it gives form to all our modes of approach to the throne of God. It is in the name of Christ, all our praises, thanksgivings, confessions, and prayers are offered, and for his sake alone do we hope to find them accepted.
Thirdly, this access to the Father is by the Spirit. The inward change by which we are enabled to believe in Christ, the feelings of desire, reverence, filial confidence which are essential to our communion with God, are the fruits of the Spirit. Hence we are said to be drawn or led by the Spirit, and the Spirit also as well as Christ is called our advocate, or paraclete; and God, it is said, because we are sons, hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father, Gal. 4, 6. The words ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι, by one spirit, are not to be understood as expressing the inward concord or fellowship of the Jews and Gentiles in drawing near to God, nor simply that we are influenced by a common spirit of life, but the words are to be understood of the Holy Ghost.—1. Because the word πνεῦμα, without as well as with the article so generally refers to the Spirit in the New Testament. 2. Because the obvious reference to the Trinity in the passage, ("to the Father, through Christ, by the Spirit,") demands this interpretation. And 3. Because the same office is elsewhere characteristically referred to the Spirit. The other interpretations are included in this. If Jews and Gentiles are led by the Spirit to draw near to God, it follows that they come with one heart; and are animated by one principle of life. The preposition ἐν may be taken instrumentally, and rendered by, as in the following verse. Or it may mean in communion with. The Holy Ghost is designated here as one Spirit, in opposition to the two classes, Jews and Gentiles. Both have access by one and the same Spirit. The two, therefore, are not only one body as stated in verse 16, but they are inhabited and controlled by one Spirit. Thus in 1 Cor. 12, 11, "one and the self-same Spirit," is said to divide to every man severally as he wills; and in verse 12, it is, "By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body." Thus has the divine purpose of which the apostle spoke in the first chapter—his purpose to unite all his people in one harmonious body—been consummated. Christ by his cross has reconciled them, both Jews and Gentiles, unto God; the distinction between the two classes is abolished; united in one body, filled and guided by one Spirit, they draw near to God as his common children.
V. 19. The consequences of this reconciliation are that the Gentiles are now fellow-citizens of the saints, members of the family of God, and part of that temple in which God dwells by his Spirit. Formerly they were ξένοι, strangers, now they are συμπολῖται, fellow-citizens. Formerly the Gentiles stood in the same relation to the theocracy or commonwealth of Israel, that we do to a foreign State. They had no share in its privileges, no participation in its blessings. Now they are "fellow-citizens of the saints." By saints are not to be understood the Jews, nor the ancient patriarchs, but the people of God. Christians have become, under the new dispensation, what the Jews once were, viz. saints, men selected and separated from the world, and consecrated to God as his peculiar people. They now constitute the theocracy—which is no longer confined to any one people or country, but embraces all in every country who have access to God by Christ Jesus. In this spiritual kingdom the Gentiles have now the right of citizenship. They are on terms of perfect equality with all other members of that kingdom. And that kingdom is the kingdom of heaven. The same terms of admission are required, and neither more nor less, for membership in that kingdom, and for admission into heaven; all who enter the one enter the other; the one is but the infancy of the other; we are now, says Paul, the citizens of heaven. It is not, therefore, to the participation of the privileges of the old, external, visible theocracy, nor simply to the pale of the visible Christian church, that the apostle here welcomes his Gentile brethren, but to the spiritual Israel, the communion of saints; to citizenship in that kingdom of which Christ is king, and membership in that body of which he is the head. It is only a change of illustration without any essential change of sense, when the apostle adds, they are no longer πάροικοι but οἰκεῖοι. The family is a much more intimate brotherhood than the State. The relation to a father is much more sacred and tender than that which we bear to a civil ruler; and therefore, there is an advance in this clause beyond what is said in the former. If in the former we are said to be fellow-citizens with the saints, here we are said to be the children of God; whose character and privileges belong to all those in whom God dwells by his Spirit.
V. 20. As οἶκος means both a family and a house, the apostle passes from the one figure to the other. The Gentiles are members of the family of God, and they are parts of his house. They are built, ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν, on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.
That the prophets here mentioned are those of the new dispensation, is evident—first from the position of the terms. It would more naturally be prophets and apostles if the Old Testament prophets had been intended. As God has set in the church, ‘first apostles, and second, prophets,’ it is obvious that these are the classes of teachers here referred to. 2. The statement here made that the apostles and prophets are, or have laid, the foundation of that house of which the Gentiles are a part, is more obviously true of the New, than of the Old Testament prophets. 3. The passage in ch. 3, 5, in which it is said, "The mystery of Christ is now revealed to holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit," is also strongly in favour of this interpretation.
On account of the omission of the article before προφητῶν some render the clause thus: ‘The apostle-prophets—or apostles who are prophets.’ But this is unnecessary, because the repetition of the article is often dispensed with, when the connected nouns belong to one category, and constitute one class. Both apostles and prophets belong to the class of Christian teachers. This interpretation is not only unnecessary, it is also improbable; because apostles and prophets were not identical. There were many prophets who were not apostles. The latter were the immediate messengers of Christ, invested with infallible authority as teachers, and supreme power as rulers in his church. The prophets were a class of teachers who spoke by inspiration as the Spirit from time to time directed.
The principal difference of opinion as to the interpretation of this clause, is whether "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" means the foundation which they constitute—or, which they laid. In favour of the latter view, it is urged that Christ, and not the apostles, is the foundation of the church; that Paul, 1 Cor. 3, 10, speaks of himself as having laid the foundation, and not as being part of it; and that it is derogatory to Christ to associate him with the apostles on terms of such apparent equality, he being one part and they another of the foundation. On the other hand, however, it may be said, that there is a true and obvious sense in which the apostles are the foundation of the church; secondly, they are expressly so called in Scripture—as in Rev. 21, 14, besides the disputed passage, Matt. 16, 18; and thirdly, the figure here demands this interpretation. In this particular passage Christ is the corner stone, the apostles the foundation, believers the edifice. The corner stone is distinguished from the foundation. To express the idea that the church rests on Christ, he is sometimes called the foundation and sometimes the corner stone of the building; but where he is called the one, he is not represented as the other. This representation no more implies the equality of Christ and the apostles, than believers being represented as constituting with him one building, implies their equality with him.
As the corner stone of a building is that which unites and sustains two walls, many suppose that the union and common dependence on Christ of the Jews and Gentiles, are intended in the application of this term to the Redeemer. But as the same figure is used where no such reference can be assumed, it is more natural to understand the apostle as expressing the general idea that the whole church rests on Christ. This Isaiah predicted should be the case, when he represents Jehovah as saying: "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste." Isaiah 28, 16. Ps. 118, 22. Matt. 21, 42. Acts 4, 11. 1 Cor. 3, 11. 1 Pet. 2, 6-8.
V. 21. Christ being the corner stone, every thing depends on union with him. Therefore the apostle adds, "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord." Christ is the principle at once of support and of growth. He not only sustains the building, but carries it on to its consummation. The words ἐν are not to be rendered, on which, referring to the foundation, but, in whom, referring to Christ. Union with him is the sole essential condition of our being parts of that living temple of which he is the corner stone.
The words πᾶσα ἡ οἰκοδομή, even without the article, which, because wanting in the oldest manuscripts, many critics omit, must here mean "the whole," and not "every building." It would destroy the whole consistency of the figure to represent "every congregation," as a temple by itself resting on Christ as the corner stone. Christ has but one body, and there is but one temple composed of Jews and Gentiles, in which God dwells by his Spirit.
All the parts of this temple are "fitly framed together," συναρμολογουμένη. Intimate union by faith with Christ is the necessary condition of the increase spoken of immediately afterwards. The building however is not only thus united with the corner stone, but the several parts one with another, so as to constitute a well compacted whole. This union, as appears from the nature of the building, is not external and visible, as a worldly kingdom under one visible head, but spiritual.
"Groweth unto a holy temple," αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον, i. e. increases so as to become a holy temple. A temple is a building in which God dwells. Such a temple is holy, as sacred to him. It belongs to him, is consecrated to his use, and can neither be appropriated by any other, nor used for any thing but his service, without profanation. This is true of the church as a whole, and of all its constituent members. The money-changers of the world cannot, with impunity, make the church a place of traffic, or employ it in any way to answer their sordid or secular ends. The church does not belong to the state, and cannot lawfully be controlled by it. It is "sacred," set apart for God. It is his house in which he alone has any authority.
The words ἐν Κυρίῳ, in the Lord, at the end of this verse, admit of different constructions. They may be connected with the word temple immediately preceding, and be taken as equivalent to the genitive ‘Temple in the Lord,’ for ‘Temple of the Lord.’ But as the word Lord must refer to Christ, and as the temple is the house of God, this explanation produces confusion. They may be connected with the word holy; ‘holy in the Lord,’ i. e. holy in virtue of union with the Lord, which gives a very good sense. Or they may be referred to the verb, ‘Grows by,’ or better, ‘in union with the Lord.’ This has in its favour the parallel passage, 4, 16. The church compacted together in him, grows in him, in virtue of that union, into a holy temple.
V. 22. What was said of the whole body of believers, is here affirmed of the Ephesian Christians. "In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Builded together, συνοικοδομεῖσθε, may mean either, ‘you together with other believers;’ or, ‘you severally are all united in this building.’ The former appears more consistent with the context. Habitation of God, κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ, is only an equivalent expression to the phrase "holy temple" of the preceding verse. There seems to be no sufficient reason, for considering that the κατοικητήριον of this verse refers to individual believers, and ναος ἅγιος in the preceding, to the united body. So that the sense were, ‘God, by dwelling in each of you by his Spirit, makes you collectively his temple.’ This confuses the whole figure. The two verses are parallel. The whole building grows to a holy temple. And you Ephesians are builded together with other believers so as to form with them this habitation of God.
The words ἐν πνεύματι, at the end of the verse, are variously explained. Some make them qualify adjectively the preceding word.’ Habitation in the Spirit,’ for ‘Spiritual habitation.’ Others express the sense paraphrastically, thus: ‘Habitation of God in virtue of the indwelling of the Spirit.’ This is in accordance with other passages in which the church is called the temple of God because he dwells therein by the Spirit. The Spirit being a divine person, his presence is the presence of God. Finally, the words may be connected with the verb, and the preposition have an instrumental force. ‘Ye are builded by the Spirit into an habitation of God.’ This is perhaps the best explanation. The church increases in the Lord, v. 21, and is builded by the Spirit, v. 22. It is in union with the one, and by the agency of the other this glorious work is carried on.
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