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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 2

Eph 2:1-22. God's Love and Grace in Quickening Us, Once Dead, through Christ. His Purpose in Doing So: Exhortation Based on Our Privileges as Built Together, an Holy Temple, in Christ, through the Spirit.

1. And you—"You also," among those who have experienced His mighty power in enabling them to believe (Eph 1:19-23).

hath he quickened—supplied from the Greek (Eph 2:5).

dead—spiritually. (Col 2:13). A living corpse: without the gracious presence of God's Spirit in the soul, and so unable to think, will, or do aught that is holy.

in trespasses … sinsin them, as the element in which the unbeliever is, and through which he is dead to the true life. Sin is the death of the soul. Isa 9:2; Joh 5:25, "dead" (spiritually), 1Ti 5:6. "Alienated from the life of God" (Eph 4:18). Translate, as Greek, "in your trespasses," &c. "Trespass" in Greek, expresses a FALL or LAPSE, such as the transgression of Adam whereby he fell. "Sin." (Greek, "hamartia") implies innate corruption and ALIENATION from God (literally, erring of the mind from the rule of truth), exhibited in acts of sin (Greek, "hamartemata"). Bengel, refers "trespasses" to the Jews who had the law, and yet revolted from it; "sins," to the Gentiles who know not God.

2. the course of this world—the career (literally, "the age," compare Ga 1:4), or present system of this world (1Co 2:6, 12; 3:18, 19, as opposed to "the world to come"): alien from God, and lying in the wicked one (1Jo 5:19). "The age" (which is something more external and ethical) regulates "the world" (which is something more external).

the prince of the power of the air—the unseen God who lies underneath guiding "the course of this world" (2Co 4:4); ranging through the air around us: compare Mr 4:4, "fowls of the air" (Greek, "heaven") that is, (Eph 2:15), "Satan" and his demons. Compare Eph 6:12; Joh 12:31. Christ's ascension seems to have cast Satan out of heaven (Re 12:5, 9, 10, 12, 13), where he had been heretofore the accuser of the brethren (Job 1:6-11). No longer able to accuse in heaven those justified by Christ, the ascended Saviour (Ro 8:33, 34), he assails them on earth with all trials and temptations; and "we live in an atmosphere poisonous and impregnated with deadly elements. But a mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ's coming" [Auberlen], for Satan shall be bound (Re 12:12, 13, 15, 17; 20:2, 3). "The power" is here used collectively for the "powers of the air"; in apposition with which "powers" stand the "spirits," comprehended in the singular, "the spirit," taken also collectively: the aggregate of the "seducing spirits" (1Ti 4:1) which "work now (still; not merely, as in your case, 'in time past') in the sons of disobedience" (a Hebraism: men who are not merely by accident disobedient, but who are essentially sons of disobedience itself: compare Mt 3:7), and of which Satan is here declared to be "the prince." The Greek does not allow "the spirit" to refer to Satan, "the prince" himself, but to "the powers of the air" of which he is prince. The powers of the air are the embodiment of that evil "spirit" which is the ruling principle of unbelievers, especially the heathen (Ac 26:18), as opposed to the spirit of the children of God (Lu 4:33). The potency of that "spirit" is shown in the "disobedience" of the former. Compare De 32:20, "children in whom is no faith" (Isa 30:9; 57:4). They disobey the Gospel both in faith and practice (2Th 1:8; 2Co 2:12).

3. also we—that is, we also. Paul here joins himself in the same category with them, passing from the second person (Eph 2:1, 2) to the first person here.

all—Jews and Gentiles.

our conversation—"our way of life" (2Co 1:12; 1Pe 1:18). This expression implies an outwardly more decorous course, than the open "walk" in gross sins on the part of the majority of Ephesians in times past, the Gentile portion of whom may be specially referred to in Eph 2:2. Paul and his Jewish countrymen, though outwardly more seemly than the Gentiles (Ac 26:4, 5, 18), had been essentially like them in living to the unrenewed flesh, without the Spirit of God.

fulfillingGreek, doing.

mindGreek, "our thoughts." Mental suggestions and purposes (independent of God), as distinguished from the blind impulses of "the flesh."

and were by nature—He intentionally breaks off the construction, substituting "and we were" for "and being," to mark emphatically his and their past state by nature, as contrasted with their present state by grace. Not merely is it, we had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires, and so being children of wrath; but we were by nature originally "children of wrath," and so consequently had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires. "Nature," in Greek, implies that which has grown in us as the peculiarity of our being, growing with our growth, and strengthening with our strength, as distinguished from that which has been wrought on us by mere external influences: what is inherent, not acquired (Job 14:4; Ps 51:5). An incidental proof of the doctrine of original sin.

children of wrath—not merely "sons," as in the Greek, "sons of disobedience" (Eph 2:2), but "children" by generation; not merely by adoption, as "sons" might be. The Greek order more emphatically marks this innate corruption: "Those who in their (very) nature are children of wrath"; Eph 2:5, "grace" is opposed to "nature" here; and salvation (implied in Eph 2:5, 8, "saved") to "wrath." Compare Article IX, Church of England Common Prayer Book. "Original sin (birth-sin), standeth not in the following of Adam, but is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, naturally engendered of Adam [Christ was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin], whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil; and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation." Paul shows that even the Jews, who boasted of their birth from Abraham, were by natural birth equally children of wrath as the Gentiles, whom the Jews despised on account of their birth from idolaters (Ro 3:9; 5:12-14). "Wrath abideth" on all who disobey the Gospel in faith and practice (Joh 3:36). The phrase, "children of wrath," is a Hebraism, that is, objects of God's wrath from childhood, in our natural state, as being born in the sin which God hates. So "son of death" (2Sa 12:5, Margin); "son of perdition" (Joh 17:12; 2Th 2:3).

as othersGreek, "as the rest" of mankind are (1Th 4:13).

4. God, who is richGreek "(as) being rich in mercy."

for—that is, "because of His great love." This was the special ground of God's saving us; as "rich in mercy" (compare Eph 2:7; Eph 1:7; Ro 2:4; 10:12) was the general ground. "Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation" [Bengel].

5. dead in sins—The best reading is in the Greek, "dead in our (literally, 'the') trespasses."

quickened—"vivified" spiritually, and consequences hereafter, corporally. There must be a spiritual resurrection of the soul before there can be a comfortable resurrection of the body [Pearson] (Joh 11:25, 26; Ro 8:11).

together with Christ—The Head being seated at God's right hand, the body also sits there with Him [Chrysostom]. We are already seated there IN Him ("in Christ Jesus," Eph 2:6), and hereafter shall be seated by Him; IN Him already as in our Head, which is the ground of our hope; by Him hereafter, as by the conferring cause, when hope shall be swallowed up in fruition [Pearson]. What God wrought in Christ, He wrought (by the very fact) in all united to Christ, and one with Him.

by grace ye are savedGreek, "Ye are in a saved state." Not merely "ye are being saved," but ye "are passed from death unto life" (Joh 5:24). Salvation is to the Christian not a thing to be waited for hereafter, but already realized (1Jo 3:14). The parenthetic introduction of this clause here (compare Eph 2:8) is a burst of Paul's feeling, and in order to make the Ephesians feel that grace from first to last is the sole source of salvation; hence, too, he says "ye," not "we."

6. raised us up together—with Christ. The "raising up" presupposes previous quickening of Jesus in the tomb, and of us in the grave of our sins.

made us sit together—with Christ, namely, in His ascension. Believers are bodily in heaven in point of right, and virtually so in spirit, and have each their own place assigned there, which in due time they shall take possession of (Php 3:20, 21). He does not say, "on the right hand of God"; a prerogative reserved to Christ peculiarly; though they shall share His throne (Re 3:21).

in Christ Jesus—Our union with Him is the ground of our present spiritual, and future bodily, resurrection and ascension. "Christ Jesus" is the phrase mostly used in this Epistle, in which the office of the Christ, the Anointed Prophet, Priest and King, is the prominent thought; when the Person is prominent, "Jesus Christ" is the phrase used.

7. Greek, "That He might show forth (middle reflexive voice; for His own glory, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) in the ages which are coming on," that is, the blessed ages of the Gospel which supersede "the age (Greek, for 'course') of this world" (Eph 2:2), and the past "ages" from which the mystery was hidden (Col 1:26, 27). These good ages, though beginning with the first preaching of the Gospel, and thenceforth continually succeeding one another, are not consummated till the Lord's coming again (compare Eph 1:21; Heb 6:5). The words, "coming on," do not exclude the time then present, but imply simply the ages following upon Christ's "raising them up together" spiritually (Eph 2:6).

kindness—"benignity."

through Christ—rather, as Greek, "in Christ"; the same expression as is so often repeated, to mark that all our blessings center "IN Him."

8. For—illustrating "the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness." Translate as in Eph 2:5, "Ye are in a saved state."

through faith—the effect of the power of Christ's resurrection (Eph 1:19, 20; Php 3:10) whereby we are "raised together" with Him (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "through your (literally, 'the') faith." The instrument or mean of salvation on the part of the person saved; Christ alone is the meritorious agent.

and that—namely, the act of believing, or "faith." "Of yourselves" stands in opposition to, "it is the gift of God" (Php 1:29). "That which I have said, 'through faith,' I do not wish to be understood so as if I excepted faith itself from grace" [Estius]. "God justifies the believing man, not for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of Him in whom he believes" [Hooker]. The initiation, as well as the increase, of faith, is from the Spirit of God, not only by an external proposal of the word, but by internal illumination in the soul [Pearson]. Yet "faith" cometh by the means which man must avail himself of, namely, "hearing the word of God" (Ro 10:17), and prayer (Lu 11:13), though the blessing is wholly of God (1Co 3:6, 7).

9. Not of works—This clause stands in contrast to "by grace," as is confirmed by Ro 4:4, 5; 11:6.

lest—rather, as Greek, "that no man should boast" (Ro 3:27; 4:2).

10. workmanship—literally, "a thing of His making"; "handiwork." Here the spiritual creation, not the physical, is referred to (Eph 2:8, 9).

created—having been created (Eph 4:24; Ps 102:18; Isa 43:21; 2Co 5:5, 17).

unto good works—"for good works." "Good works" cannot be performed until we are new "created unto" them. Paul never calls the works of the law "good works." We are not saved by, but created unto, good works.

before ordainedGreek, "before made ready" (compare Joh 5:36). God marks out for each in His purposes beforehand, the particular good works, and the time and way which tie sees best. God both makes ready by His providence the opportunities for the works, and makes us ready for their performance (Joh 15:16; 2Ti 2:21).

that we should walk in them—not "be saved" by them. Works do not justify, but the justified man works (Ga 5:22-25).

11. The Greek order in the oldest manuscripts is, "That in time past (literally, once) ye," &c. Such remembrance sharpens gratitude and strengthens faith (Eph 2:19) [Bengel].

Gentiles in the flesh—that is, Gentiles in respect to circumcision.

called Uncircumcision—The Gentiles were called (in contempt), and were, the Uncircumcision; the Jews were called, but were not truly, the Circumcision [Ellicott].

in the flesh made by hands—as opposed to the true "circumcision of the heart in the Spirit, and not the letter" (Ro 2:29), "made without the hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col 2:11).

12. without ChristGreek, "separate from Christ"; having no part in Him; far from Him. A different Greek word (aneu) would be required to express, "Christ was not present with you" [Tittmann].

aliensGreek, "alienated from," not merely "separated from." The Israelites were cut off from the commonwealth of God, but it was as being self-righteous, indolent, and unworthy, not as aliens and strangers [Chrysostom]. The expression, "alienated from," takes it for granted that the Gentiles, before they had apostatized from the primitive truth, had been sharers in light and life (compare Eph 4:18, 23). The hope of redemption through the Messiah, on their subsequent apostasy, was embodied into a definite "commonwealth" or polity, namely, that "of Israel," from which the Gentiles were alienated. Contrast Eph 2:13; Eph 3:6; 4:4, 5, with Ps 147:20.

covenants of promise—rather, "… of the promise," namely, "to thee and thy seed will I give this land" (Ro 9:4; Ga 3:16). The plural implies the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the whole people at Sinai [Alford]. "The promise" is singular, to signify that the covenant, in reality, and substantially, is one and the same at all times, but only different in its accidents and external circumstances (compare Heb 1:1, "at sundry times and in divers manners").

having no … hope—beyond this life (1Co 15:19). The CONJECTURES of heathen philosophers as to a future life were at best vague and utterly unsatisfactory. They had no divine "promise," and therefore no sure ground of "hope." Epicurus and Aristotle did not believe in it at all. The Platonists believed the soul passed through perpetual changes, now happy, and then again miserable; the Stoics, that it existed no longer than till the time of the general burning up of all things.

without GodGreek, "atheists," that is, they had not "God" in the sense we use the word, the Eternal Being who made and governs all things (compare Ac 14:15, "Turn from these vanities unto the living God who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things therein"), whereas the Jews had distinct ideas of God and immortality. Compare also Ga 4:8, "Ye knew not God … ye did service unto them which are no gods" (1Th 4:5). So also pantheists are atheists, for an impersonal God is NO God, and an ideal immortality no immortality [Tholuck].

in the world—in contrast to belonging to "the commonwealth of Israel." Having their portion and their all in this godless vain world (Ps 17:14), from which Christ delivers His people (Joh 15:19; 17:14; Ga 1:4).

13. now—in contrast to "at that time" (Eph 2:12).

in Christ Jesus—"Jesus" is here added, whereas the expression before (Eph 2:12) had been merely "Christ," to mark that they know Christ as the personal Saviour, "Jesus."

sometimesGreek, "aforetime."

far off—the Jewish description of the Gentiles. Far off from God and from the people of God (Eph 2:17; Isa 57:19; Ac 2:39).

areGreek, "have been."

byGreek, "in." Thus "the blood of Christ" is made the seal of a covenant IN which their nearness to God consists. In Eph 1:7, where the blood is more directly spoken of as the instrument, it is "through His blood" [Alford].

14. heGreek, "Himself" alone, pre-eminently, and none else. Emphatical.

our peace—not merely "Peacemaker," but "Himself" the price of our (Jews' and Gentiles' alike) peace with God, and so the bond of union between "both" in God. He took both into Himself, and reconciled them, united, to God, by His assuming our nature and our penal and legal liabilities (Eph 2:15; Isa 9:5, 6; 53:5; Mic 5:5; Col 1:20). His title, "Shiloh," means the same (Ge 49:10).

the middle wall of partitionGreek, "… of the partition" or "fence"; the middle wall which parted Jew and Gentile. There was a balustrade of stone which separated the court of the Gentiles from the holy place, which it was death for a Gentile to pass. But this, though incidentally alluded to, was but a symbol of the partition itself, namely, "the enmity" between "both" and God (Eph 2:15), the real cause of separation from God, and so the mediate cause of their separation from one another. Hence there was a twofold wall of partition, one the inner wall, severing the Jewish people from entrance to the holy part of the temple where the priests officiated, the other the outer wall, separating the Gentile proselytes from access to the court of the Jews (compare Eze 44:7; Ac 21:28). Thus this twofold wall represented the Sinaitic law, which both severed all men, even the Jews, from access to God (through sin, which is the violation of the law), and also separated the Gentiles from the Jews. As the term "wall" implies the strength of the partition, so "fence" implies that it was easily removed by God when the due time came.

15. Rather, make "enmity" an apposition to "the middle wall of partition"; "Hath broken down the middle wall of partition (not merely as English Version, 'between us,' but also between all men and God), to wit, the enmity (Ro 8:7) by His flesh" (compare Eph 2:16; Ro 8:3).

the law of commandments contained inGreek, "the law of the commandments (consisting) in ordinances." This law was "the partition" or "fence," which embodied the expression of the "enmity" (the "wrath" of God against our sin, and our enmity to Him, Eph 2:3) (Ro 4:15; 5:20; 7:10, 11; 8:7). Christ has in, or by, His crucified flesh, abolished it, so far as its condemning and enmity-creating power is concerned (Col 2:14), substituting for it the law of love, which is the everlasting spirit of the law, and which flows from the realization in the soul of His love in His death for us. Translate what follows, "that He might make the two (Jews and Gentiles) into one new man." Not that He might merely reconcile the two to each other, but incorporate the two, reconciled in Him to God, into one new man; the old man to which both belonged, the enemy of God, having been slain in His flesh on the cross. Observe, too, ONE new man; we are all in God's sight but one in Christ, as we are but one in Adam [Alford].

making peace—primarily between all and God, secondarily between Jews and Gentiles; He being "our peace." This "peace-making" precedes its publication (Eph 2:17).

16. Translate, "might altogether reconcile them both in one body (the Church, Col 3:15) unto God through His cross." The Greek for "reconcile" (apocatalaxe), found only here and in Col 1:20, expresses not only a return to favor with one (catallage), but so to lay aside enmity that complete amity follows; to pass from enmity to complete reconciliation [Tittmann].

slain the enmity—namely, that had been between man and God; and so that between Jew and Gentile which had resulted from it. By His being slain, He slew it (compare Heb 2:14).

therebyGreek, "therein"; "in" or "by the cross," that is, His crucifixion (Col 2:15).

17. Translate, "He came and announced glad tidings of peace." "He came" of His own free love, and "announced peace" with His own mouth to the apostles (Lu 24:36; Joh 20:19, 21, 26); and by them to others, through His Spirit present in His Church (Joh 14:18). Ac 26:23 is strictly parallel; after His resurrection "He showed light to the people ('them that were nigh') and to the Gentiles ('you that were afar off')," by His Spirit in His ministers (compare 1Pe 3:19).

and to them—The oldest manuscripts insert "peace" again: "And peace to them." The repetition implies the joy with which both alike would dwell again and again upon the welcome word "peace." So Isa 57:19.

18. Translate, "For it is through Him (Joh 14:6; Heb 10:19) that we have our access (Eph 3:12; Ro 5:2), both of us, in (that is, united in, that is, "by," 1Co 12:13, Greek) one Spirit to the Father," namely, as our common Father, reconciled to both alike; whence flows the removal of all separation between Jew and Gentile. The oneness of "the Spirit," through which we both have our access, is necessarily followed by oneness of the body, the Church (Eph 2:16). The distinctness of persons in the Divine Trinity appears in this verse. It is also fatal to the theory of sacerdotal priests in the Gospel through whom alone the people can approach God. All alike, people and ministers, can draw nigh to God through Christ, their ever living Priest.

19. Now, therefore—rather, "So then" [Alford].

foreigners—rather, "sojourners"; opposed to "members of the household," as "strangers" is to "fellow citizens." Php 3:19, 20, "conversation," Greek, "citizenship."

but—The oldest manuscripts add, "are."

with the saints—"the commonwealth of (spiritual) Israel" (Eph 2:12).

of GodTHE Father; as Jesus Christ appears in Eph 2:20, and THE Spirit in Eph 2:22.

20. Translate as Greek, "Built up upon," &c. (participle; having been built up upon; omit, therefore, "and are"). Compare 1Co 3:11, 12. The same image in Eph 3:18, recurs in his address to the Ephesian elders (Ac 20:32), and in his Epistle to Timothy at Ephesus (1Ti 3:15; 2Ti 2:19), naturally suggested by the splendid architecture of Diana's temple; the glory of the Christian temple is eternal and real, not mere idolatrous gaud. The image of a building is appropriate also to the Jew-Christians; as the temple at Jerusalem was the stronghold of Judaism; as Diana's temple, of paganism.

foundation of the apostles, &c.—that is, upon their ministry and living example (compare Mt 16:18). Christ Himself, the only true Foundation, was the grand subject of their ministry, and spring of their life. As one with Him and His fellow workers, they, too, in a secondary sense, are called "foundations" (Re 21:14). The "prophets" are joined with them closely; for the expression is here not "foundations of the apostles and the prophets," but "foundations of the apostles and prophets." For the doctrine of both was essentially one (1Pe 1:10, 11; Re 19:10). The apostles take the precedency (Lu 10:24). Thus he appropriately shows regard to the claims of the Jews and Gentiles: "the prophets" representing the old Jewish dispensation, "the apostles" the new. The "prophets" of the new also are included. Bengel and Alford refer the meaning solely to these (Eph 3:5; 4:11). These passages imply, I think, that the New Testament prophets are not excluded; but the apostle's plain reference to Ps 118:22, "the head stone of the corner," proves that the Old Testament prophets are a prominent thought. David is called a "prophet" in Ac 2:30. Compare also Isa 28:16; another prophet present to the mind of Paul, which prophecy leans on the earlier one of Jacob (Ge 49:24). The sense of the context, too, suits this: Ye were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (in the time of her Old Testament prophets), but now ye are members of the true Israel, built upon the foundation of her New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets. Paul continually identifies his teaching with that of Israel's old prophets (Ac 26:22; 28:23). The costly foundation-stones of the temple (1Ki 5:17) typified the same truth (compare Jer 51:26). The same stone is at once the corner-stone and the foundation-stone on which the whole building rests. Paul supposes a stone or rock so large and so fashioned as to be both at once; supporting the whole as the foundation, and in part rising up at the extremities, so as to admit of the side walls meeting in it, and being united in it as the corner-stone [Zanchius]. As the corner-stone, it is conspicuous, as was Christ (1Pe 2:6), and coming in men's way may be stumbled over, as the Jews did at Christ (Mt 21:42; 1Pe 2:7).

21. In whom—as holding together the whole.

fitly framed—so as exactly to fit together.

groweth—"is growing" continually. Here an additional thought is added to the image; the Church has the growth of a living organism, not the mere increase of a building. Compare 1Pe 2:5; "lively stones … built up a spiritual house." Compare Eph 4:16; Zec 6:12, "The Branch shall build the temple of the Lord," where similarly the growth of a branch, and the building of a temple, are joined.

holy—as being the "habitation of God" (Eph 2:22). So "in the Lord" (Christ) answers to "through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22; compare Eph 3:16, 17). "Christ is the inclusive Head of all the building, the element in which it has its being and now its growth" [Alford].

22. are builded together—Translate, "are being builded together."

throughGreek, "in the Spirit." God, by His Spirit in believers, has them for His habitation (1Co 3:16, 17; 6:19; 2Co 6:16).

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