Introduction to Ephesians
Eph 1:1-23. INSCRIPTION: ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH IN THE FATHER'S ETERNAL COUNSEL, AND THE SON'S BLOODSHEDDING: THE SEALING OF IT BY THE SPIRIT. THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER THAT THEY MAY FULLY KNOW GOD'S GRACIOUS POWER IN CHRIST TOWARDS THE SAINTS.
1. by--rather, "through the will of God": called to the apostleship through that same "will" which originated the Church (Eph 1:5, 9, 11; compare Ga 1:4).
which are at Ephesus--(See Introduction.)
to the saints . . . and to the faithful--The same persons are referred to by both designations, as the Greek proves: "to those who are saints, and faithful in Christ Jesus." The sanctification by God is here put before man's faith. The twofold aspect of salvation is thus presented, God's grace in the first instance sanctifying us, (that is, setting us apart in His eternal purposes as holy unto Himself); and our faith, by God's gift, laying hold of salvation (2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2).
3. The doxologies in almost all the Epistles imply the real sense of grace experienced by the writers and their readers (1Pe 1:3). Eph 1:3-14 sets forth summarily the Gospel of the grace of God: the FATHER'S work of love, Eph 1:3 (choosing us to holiness, Eph 1:4; to sonship, Eph 1:5; to acceptance, Eph 1:6): the SON'S, Eph 1:7 (redemption, Eph 1:7; knowledge of the mystery of His will, Eph 1:9; an inheritance, Eph 1:11); the HOLY SPIRIT'S, Eph 1:13 (sealing, Eph 1:13; giving an earnest of the inheritance, Eph 1:14).
the God and Father of . . . Christ--and so the God and Father of us who are in Him (Joh 20:17). God is "the God" of the man Jesus, and "the Father" of the Divine Word. The Greek is, "Blessed us," not "hath blessed us"; referring to the past original counsel of God. As in creation (Ge 1:22) so in redemption (Ge 12:3; Mt 5:3-11; 25:34) God "blesses" His children; and that not in mere words, but in acts.
blessings--Greek, "blessing." "All," that is, "every possible blessing for time and eternity, which the Spirit has to bestow" (so "spiritual" means; not "spiritual," as the term is now used, as opposed to bodily).
in heavenly places--a phrase five times found in this Epistle, and not elsewhere (Eph 1:20; Eph 2:6; 3:10; 6:12); Greek, "in the heavenly places." Christ's ascension is the means of introducing us into the heavenly places, which by our sin were barred against us. Compare the change made by Christ (Col 1:20; Eph 1:20). While Christ in the flesh was in the form of a servant, God's people could not realize fully their heavenly privileges as sons. Now "our citizenship (Greek) is in heaven" (Php 3:20), where our High Priest is ever "blessing" us. Our "treasures" are there (Mt 6:20, 21); our aims and affections (Col 3:1, 2); our hope (Col 1:5; Tit 2:13); our inheritance (1Pe 1:4). The gift of the Spirit itself, the source of the "spiritual blessing," is by virtue of Jesus having ascended thither (Eph 4:8).
in Christ--the center and source of all blessing to us.
4. hath chosen us--Greek, "chose us out for Himself" (namely, out of the world, Ga 1:4): referring to His original choice, spoken of as past.
in him--The repetition of the idea, "in Christ" (Eph 1:3), implies the paramount importance of the truth that it is in Him, and by virtue of union to Him, the Second Adam, the Restorer ordained for us from everlasting, the Head of redeemed humanity, believers have all their blessings (Eph 3:11).
before the foundation of the world--This assumes the eternity of the Son of God (Joh 17:5, 24), as of the election of believers in Him (2Ti 1:9; 2Th 2:13).
that we should be holy--positively (De 14:2).
without blame--negatively (Eph 5:27; 1Th 3:13).
before him--It is to Him the believer looks, walking as in His presence, before whom he looks to be accepted in the judgment (Col 1:22; compare Re 7:15).
in love--joined by BENGEL and others with Eph 1:5, "in love having predestinated us," &c. But English Version is better. The words qualify the whole clause, "that we should be holy . . . before Him." Love, lost to man by the fall, but restored by redemption, is the root and fruit and sum of all holiness (Eph 5:2; 1Th 3:12, 13).
5. predestinated--more special in respect to the end and precise means, than "chosen" or elected. We are "chosen" out of the rest of the world; "predestinated" to all things that secure the inheritance for us (Eph 1:11; Ro 8:29). "Foreordained."
by Jesus--Greek, "through Jesus."
to himself--the Father (Col 1:20). ALFORD explains, "adoption . . . into Himself," that is, so that we should be partakers of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4). LACHMANN reads, "unto Him." The context favors the explanation of CALVIN: God has regard to Himself and the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6, 12, 14) as His ultimate end. He had one only-begotten Son, and He was pleased for His own glory, to choose out of a lost world many to become His adopted sons. Translate, "unto Himself."
the good pleasure of his will--So the Greek (Mt 11:26; Lu 10:21). We cannot go beyond "the good pleasure of His will" in searching into the causes of our salvation, or of any of His works (Eph 1:9). (Job 33:13.) Why needest thou philosophize about an imaginary world of optimism? Thy concern is to take heed that thou be not bad. There was nothing in us which deserved His love (Eph 1:1, 9, 11) [BENGEL].
6. (Eph 1:7, 17, 18). The end aimed at (Ps 50:23), that is, that the glory of His grace may be praised by all His creatures, men and angels.
wherein--Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "which." Then translate, "which He graciously bestowed on us." But English Version is supported by good manuscripts and the oldest versions.
us accepted--a kindred Greek word to "grace": charitos, echaritosen: translate, "graciously accepted"; "made us subjects of His grace"; "embraced us in the arms of His grace" (Ro 3:24; 5:15).
in the beloved--pre-eminently so called (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Joh 3:35; Col 1:13). Greek, "Son of His love." It is only "IN HIS BELOVED" that He loves us (Eph 1:3; 1Jo 4:9, 10).
7. In whom--"the Beloved" (Eph 1:6; Ro 3:24).
we have--as a present possession.
redemption--Greek, "our (literally, 'the') redemption"; THE redemption which is the grand subject of all revelation, and especially of the New Testament (Ro 3:24), namely, from the power, guilt, and penal consequences of sin (Mt 1:21). If a man were unable to redeem himself from being a bond-servant, his kinsman might redeem him (Le 25:48). Hence, antitypically the Son of God became the Son of man, that as our kinsman He might redeem us (Mt 20:28). Another "redemption" follows, namely, that "of the purchased possession" hereafter (Eph 1:14).
through his blood-- (Eph 2:13); as the instrument; the propitiation, that is, the consideration (devised by His own love) for which He, who was justly angry (Isa 12:1), becomes propitious to us; the expiation, the price paid to divine justice for our sin (Ac 20:28; Ro 3:25; 1Co 6:20; Col 1:20; 1Pe 1:18, 19).
the forgiveness of sins--Greek, "the remission of our transgressions": not merely "pretermission," as the Greek (Ro 3:25) ought to be translated. This "remission," being the explanation of "redemption," includes not only deliverance from sin's penalty, but from its pollution and enslaving power, negatively; and the reconciliation of an offended God, and a satisfaction unto a just God, positively.
riches of his grace-- (Eph 2:7); "the exceeding riches of His grace." Compare Eph 1:18; Eph 3:16, "according to the riches of His glory": so that "grace" is His "glory."
8. Rather, "which He made to abound towards us."
all wisdom and prudence--"wisdom" in devising the plan of redeeming mankind; "prudence" in executing it by the means, and in making all the necessary arrangements of Providence for that purpose. Paul attributes to the Gospel of God's grace "all" possible "wisdom and prudence," in opposition to the boasts of wisdom and prudence which the unbelieving Jews and heathen philosophers and false apostles arrogated for their teachings. Christ crucified, though esteemed "foolishness" by the world, is "the wisdom of God" (1Co 1:18-30). Compare Eph 3:10, "the manifold wisdom of God."
9. "He hath abounded," or "made (grace) to abound toward us" (Eph 1:8), in that He made known to us, namely, experimentally, in our hearts.
the mystery--God's purpose of redemption hidden heretofore in His counsels, but now revealed (Eph 6:19; Ro 16:25; Col 1:26, 27). This "mystery" is not like the heathen mysteries, which were imparted only to the initiated few. All Christians are the initiated. Only unbelievers are the uninitiated.
according to his good pleasure--showing the cause why "He hath made known to us the mystery," namely, His own loving "good pleasure" toward us; also the time and manner of His doing so, are according to His good pleasure.
purposed-- (Eph 1:11).
in himself--God the Father. BENGEL takes it, "in Him," that is, Christ, as in Eph 1:3, 4. But the proper name, "in Christ," Eph 1:10, immediately after, is inconsistent with His being here meant by the pronoun.
10. Translate, "Unto the dispensation of the fulness of the times," that is, "which He purposed in Himself" (Eph 1:9) with a view to the economy of (the gracious administration belonging to) the fulness of the times (Greek, "fit times," "seasons"). More comprehensive than "the fulness of the time" (Ga 4:4). The whole of the Gospel times (plural) is meant, with the benefits to the Church dispensed in them severally and successively. Compare "the ages to come" (Eph 2:7). "The ends of the ages" (Greek, 1Co 10:11); "the times (same Greek as here, 'the seasons,' or 'fitly appointed times') of the Gentiles" (Lu 21:24); "the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power" (Ac 1:7); "the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the prophets since the world began" (Ac 3:20, 21). The coming of Jesus at the first advent, "in the fulness of time," was one of these "times." The descent of the Holy Ghost, "when Pentecost was fully come" (Ac 2:1), was another. The testimony given by the apostles to Him "in due time" ("in its own seasons," Greek) (1Ti 2:6) was another. The conversion of the Jews "when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled," the second coming of Christ, the "restitution of all things," the millennial kingdom, the new heaven and earth, shall be severally instances of "the dispensation of the fulness of the times," that is, "the dispensation of" the Gospel events and benefits belonging to their respective "times," when severally filled up or completed. God the Father, according to His own good pleasure and purpose, is the Dispenser both of the Gospel benefits and of their several fitting times (Ac 1:7).
gather together in one--Greek, "sum up under one head"; "recapitulate." The "good pleasure which He purposed," was "to sum up all things (Greek, 'THE whole range of things') in Christ (Greek, 'the Christ,' that is, His Christ)" [ALFORD]. God's purpose is to sum up the whole creation in Christ, the Head of angels, with whom He is linked by His invisible nature, and of men with whom He is linked by His humanity; of Jews and Gentiles; of the living and the dead (Eph 3:15); of animate and inanimate creation. Sin has disarranged the creature's relation of subordination to God. God means to gather up all together in Christ; or as Col 1:20 says, "By Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether things in earth or things in heaven." ALFORD well says, "The Church of which the apostle here mainly treats, is subordinated to Him in the highest degree of conscious and joyful union; those who are not His spiritually, in mere subjugation, yet consciously; the inferior tribes of creation unconsciously; but objectively, all are summed up in Him."
11. In whom--by virtue of union to whom.
obtained an inheritance--literally, "We were made to have an inheritance" [WAHL]. Compare Eph 1:18, "His inheritance in the saints": as His inheritance is there said to be in them, so theirs is here said to be in Him (Ac 26:18). However, Eph 1:12, "That we should BE TO . . . His glory" (not "that we should have"), favors the translation of BENGEL, ELLICOTT, and others, "We were made an inheritance." So the literal Israel (De 4:20; 9:29; 32:9). "Also" does not mean "we also," nor as English Version, "in whom also"; but, besides His having "made known to us His will," we were also "made His inheritance," or "we have also obtained an inheritance."
predestinated-- (Eph 1:5). The foreordination of Israel, as the elect nation, answers to that of the spiritual Israelites, believers, to an eternal inheritance, which is the thing meant here. The "we" here and in Eph 1:12, means Jewish believers (whence the reference to the election of Israel nationally arises), as contrasted with "you" (Eph 1:13) Gentile believers.
purpose--repeated from "purposed" (Eph 1:9; Eph 3:11). The Church existed in the mind of God eternally, before it existed in creation.
counsel of his . . . will-- (Eph 1:5), "the good pleasure of His will." Not arbitrary caprice, but infinite wisdom ("counsel") joined with sovereign will. Compare his address to the same Ephesians in Ac 20:27, "All the counsel of God" (Isa 28:29). Alike in the natural and spiritual creations, God is not an agent constrained by necessity. "Wheresoever counsel is, there is election, or else it is vain; where a will, there must be freedom, or else it is weak" [PEARSON].
12. (Eph 1:6, 14).
who first trusted in Christ--rather (we Jewish Christians), "who have before hoped in the Christ": who before the Christ came, looked forward to His coming, waiting for the consolation of Israel. Compare Ac 26:6, 7, "I am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come." Ac 28:20, "the hope of Israel" [ALFORD]. Compare Eph 1:18; 2:12; 4:4.
13. In whom ye also--Ye Gentiles. Supply as English Version, "trusted," from Eph 1:12; or "are." The priority of us Jews does not exclude you Gentiles from sharing in Christ (compare Ac 13:46).
the word of truth--the instrument of sanctification, and of the new birth (Joh 17:17; 2Ti 2:15; Jas 1:18). Compare Col 1:5, where also, as here, it is connected with "hope." Also Eph 4:21.
sealed--as God's confirmed children, by the Holy Spirit as the seal (Ac 19:1-6; Ro 8:16, 23; 1Jo 3:24; see on 2Co 1:22). A seal impressed on a document gives undoubted validity to the contract in it (Joh 3:33; 6:27; compare 2Co 3:3). So the sense of "the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost" (Ro 5:5), and the sense of adoption given through the Spirit at regeneration (Ro 8:15, 16), assure believers of God's good will to them. The Spirit, like a seal, impresses on the soul at regeneration the image of our Father. The "sealing" by the Holy Spirit is spoken of as past once for all. The witnessing to our hearts that we are the children of God, and heirs (Eph 1:11), is the Spirit's present testimony, the "earnest of the (coming) inheritance" (Ro 8:16-18).
that Holy Spirit of promise--rather, as the Greek, "The Spirit of promise, even the Holy Spirit": The Spirit promised both in the Old and New Testaments (Joe 2:28; Zec 12:10; Joh 7:38, 39). "The word" promised the Holy Spirit. Those who "believed the word of truth" were sealed by the Spirit accordingly.
14. earnest--the first instalment paid as a pledge that the rest will follow (Ro 8:23; 2Co 1:22).
until--rather, "Unto the redemption," &c.; joined thus, "ye were sealed (Eph 1:13) unto," that is, for the purpose of and against, the accomplishment of "the redemption," namely, not the redemption in its first stage, made by the blood of Christ, which secures our title, but, in its final completion, when the actual possession shall be ours, the full "redemption of the body" (Ro 8:23), as well as of the soul, from every infirmity (Eph 4:30). The deliverance of the creature (the body, and the whole visible creation) from the bondage of corruption, and from the usurping prince of this world, into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Ro 8:21-23; 2Pe 3:13).
of the purchased possession--God's people purchased ("acquired," Greek) as His peculiar (Greek) possession by the blood of Christ (Ac 20:28). We value highly that which we pay a high price for; so God, His Church (Eph 5:25, 26; 1Pe 1:18; 2:9; "my special treasure," Mal 3:17, Margin).
15. Wherefore--because ye are in Christ and sealed by His Spirit (Eph 1:13, 14).
I also--on my part, in return for God's so great benefits to you.
after I heard--ever since I have heard. Not implying that he had only heard of their conversion: an erroneous argument used by some against the address of this Epistle to the Ephesians (see on Eph 1:1); but referring to the report he had heard since he was with them, as to their Christian graces. So in the case of Philemon, his "beloved fellow laborer" (Phm 1), he uses the same words (Phm 4, 5).
your faith--rather, as Greek, "the faith among you," that is, which many (not all) of you have.
love unto all the saints--of whatever name, simply because they are saints. A distinguishing characteristic of true Christianity (Eph 6:24). "Faith and love he often joins together. A wondrous pair" [CHRYSOSTOM]. Hope is added, Eph 1:18.
16. (Col 1:9).
of you--omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Then the translation may be as English Version still, or as ALFORD, "making mention of them" (your "faith and love").
17. A fit prayer for all Christians.
the God of our Lord Jesus--appropriate title here; as in Eph 1:20-22 he treats of God's raising Jesus to be Head over all things to the Church. Jesus Himself called the Father "My God" (Mt 27:46).
the Father of glory--(Compare Ac 7:2). The Father of that infinite glory which shines in the face of Christ, who is "the glory" (the true Shekinah); through whom also "the glory of the inheritance" (Eph 1:18) shall be ours (Joh 17:24; 2Co 3:7-4:6).
the spirit of wisdom--whose attribute is infinite wisdom and who works wisdom in believers (Isa 11:2).
and revelation--whose function it is to reveal to believers spiritual mysteries (Joh 16:14, 15; 1Co 2:10).
in the knowledge--rather, as Greek (see on 1Co 13:12), "in the full knowledge of Him," namely, God.
18. understanding--The oldest manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, read "heart." Compare the contrary state of unbelieving, the heart being in fault (Eph 4:18; Mt 13:15). Translate, "Having the eyes of your heart enlightened" (Eph 5:14; Mt 4:16). The first effect of the Spirit moving in the new creation, as in the original physical creation (Ge 1:3; 2Co 4:6). So THEOPHILUS to AUTOLYCUS (1.3), "the ears of the heart." Where spiritual light is, there is life (Joh 1:4). The heart is "the core of life" [HARLESS], and the fountain of the thoughts; whence "the heart" in Scripture includes the mind, as well as the inclination. Its "eye," or inward vision, both receives and contemplates the light (Mt 6:22, 23). The eye is the symbol of intelligence (Eze 1:18).
the hope of his calling--the hope appertaining to His having called you; or, to the calling wherewith He has called you.
and--omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.
riches of the glory-- (Col 1:27).
his inheritance in the saints--The inheritance which he has in store in the case of the saints. I prefer explaining, "The inheritance which He has in his saints." (See on Eph 1:11; De 32:9).
power to us-ward who believe--The whole of the working of His grace, which He is carrying on, and will carry on, in us who believe. By the term "saints" (Eph 1:18), believers are regarded as absolutely perfected, and so as being God's inheritance; in this verse, as in the course of fighting the good fight of faith.
according to--in accordance wit,h, what might be expected from.
working--Greek, "the energizing"; translate, "the effectual working" (Eph 3:7). The same superhuman power was needed and exerted to make us believe, as was needed and exerted to raise Christ from the dead (Eph 1:20). Compare Php 3:10, "the power of His resurrection" (Col 2:12; 1Pe 1:3-5).
of his mighty power--Greek, "of the strength of His might."
20. in Christ--as our "first-fruits" of the resurrection, and Head, in virtue of God's mighty working in whom His power to us-ward is made possible and actual [ALFORD].
when he raised him--"in that He raised Him." The raising of Christ is not only an earnest of our bodies being hereafter raised, but has a spiritual power in it involving (by virtue of our living union with Him, as members with the Head) the resurrection, spiritually of the believer's soul now, and, consequently, of his body hereafter (Ro 6:8-11; 8:11). The Son, too, as God (though not as man), had a share in raising His own human body (Joh 2:19; 10:17, 18). Also the Holy Spirit (Ro 1:4; 1Pe 3:18).
set him--Greek, "made Him sit." The glorious spirits stand about the throne of God, but they do not sit at God's right hand (Heb 1:13).
at his own right hand-- (Ps 110:1). Where He remains till all His enemies have been put under His feet (1Co 15:24). Being appointed to "rule in the midst of His enemies" during their rebellion (Ps 110:2), He shall resign His commission after their subjection [PEARSON] (Mr 16:19; Heb 1:3; 10:12).
in the heavenly places-- (Eph 1:3). As Christ has a literal body, heaven is not merely a state, but a place; and where He is, there His people shall be (Joh 14:3).
21. Greek, "Far (or high) above all (Eph 4:10) principality (or rule, 1Co 15:24), and authority, and power (Mt 28:18), and dominion (or lordship)." Compare Php 2:9; Col 1:16; Heb 7:26; 1Pe 3:22. Evil spirits (who are similarly divided into various ranks, Eph 6:12), as well as angels of light, and earthly potentates, are included (compare Ro 8:38). Jesus is "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Re 19:16). The higher is His honor, the greater is that of His people, who are His members joined to Him, the Head. Some philosophizing teachers of the school of Simon Magus, in Western Asia Minor, had, according to IRENÆUS and EPIPHANIUS, taught their hearers these names of various ranks of angels. Paul shows that the truest wisdom is to know Christ as reigning above them all.
every name--every being whatever. "Any other creature" (Ro 8:39).
in this world--Greek, "age," that is, the present order of things. "Things present . . . things to come" (Ro 8:38).
that . . . to come--"Names which now we know not, but shall know hereafter in heaven. We know that the emperor goes before all, though we cannot enumerate all the satraps and ministers of his court; so we know that Christ is set above all, although we cannot name them all" [BENGEL].
22. put . . . under--Greek, "put in subjection under" (Ps 8:6; 1Co 15:27).
gave . . . to the church--for her special advantage. The Greek order is emphatic: "HIM He gave as Head over all things to the Church." Had it been anyone save HIM, her Head, it would not have been the boon it is to the Church. But as He is Head over all things who is also her Head (and she the body), all things are hers (1Co 3:21-23). He is OVER ("far above") all things; in contrast to the words, "TO the Church," namely, for her advantage. The former are subject; the latter is joined with Him in His dominion over them. "Head" implies not only His dominion, but our union; therefore, while we look upon Him at the right hand of God, we see ourselves in heaven (Re 3:21). For the Head and body are not severed by anything intervening, else the body would cease to be the body, and the Head cease to be the Head [PEARSON from CHRYSOSTOM].
23. his body--His mystical and spiritual, not literal, body. Not, however, merely figurative, or metaphorical. He is really, though spiritually, the Church's Head. His life is her life. She shares His crucifixion and His consequent glory. He possesses everything, His fellowship with the Father, His fulness of the Spirit, and His glorified manhood, not merely for Himself, but for her, who has a membership of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Eph 5:30).
fulness--"the filled-up receptacle" [EADIE]. The Church is dwelt in and filled by Christ. She is the receptacle, not of His inherent, but of His communicated, plenitude of gifts and graces. As His is the "fulness" (Joh 1:16; Col 1:19; 2:9) inherently, so she is His "fulness" by His impartation of it to her, in virtue of her union to Him (Eph 5:18; Col 2:10). "The full manifestation of His being, because penetrated by His life" [CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. She is the continued revelation of His divine life in human form; the fullest representative of His plenitude. Not the angelic hierarchy, as false teachers taught (Col 2:9, 10, 18), but Christ Himself is the "fulness of the Godhead," and she represents Him. KOPPE translates less probably, "the whole universal multitude."
filleth all in all--Christ as the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the world, constituted by God (Col 1:16-19), fills all the universe of things with all things. "Fills all creation with whatever it possesses" [ALFORD]. The Greek is, "filleth for Himself."