Adam Clarke Commentary
The apostle‘s salutation to the Church, Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2. He blesses God for calling the Gentiles to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, by whose sacrificial death both they and the Jews find redemption, Ephesians 1:3-7. He shows that it was through the great abundance of God‘s wisdom and goodness that the Gentiles were called into a state of salvation, and that they should receive the Holy Spirit as the earnest of their inheritance, Ephesians 1:8-15. He praises God for their conversion, and prays that they may be farther enlightened, that they may see the glory of Christ, and partake of the blessings procured by his passion and exaltation, Ephesians 1:16-23.
To the saints which are at Ephesus - As some learned men think that this epistle was written to the Church of the Laodiceans, and that the words εν Εφεσῳ , in Ephesus, were not originally in this epistle, the consideration of the subject has appeared to be more proper for the preface; and to that the reader is referred for a particular discussion of this opinion. By the term saints we are to understand those who in that place professed Christianity, and were members of the Christian Church. Saint properly signifies a holy person, and such the Gospel of Christ requires every man to be, and such every true believer is, both in heart and life; but saint appears to have been as ordinary a denomination of a believer in Christ in those primitive times, as the term Christian is now. Yet many had the name who had not the thing.
The faithful in Christ Jesus - Πιστοις· the believers - the persons who received Christ as the promised Messiah, and the Savior of the world, and continued in the grace which they had received.
Grace be to you - See the note on Romans 1:7.
Blessed be the God - See the note on 2 Corinthians 1:3, where the same form is used.
With all spiritual blessings - With the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and the abundant gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, justifying, sanctifying, and building us up on our most holy faith.
In heavenly places - Εν τοις επουρανιοις· In heavenly things, such as those mentioned above; they were not yet in heavenly places, but they had abundance of heavenly things to prepare them for heavenly places. Some think the word should be understood as signifying blessings of the most exalted or excellent kind, such as are spiritual in opposition to those that are earthly, such as are eternal in opposition to those that are temporal; and all these in, through and by Christ. We have already seen, on Galatians 4:26, that the heavenly Jerusalem, or Jerusalem which is from above, is used by the Jews to signify the days of the Messiah, and that state of grace and glory which should follow the Levitical worship and ceremonies; and it is possible that St. Paul may use the word επουρανια , heavenly things, in this sense: God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things, or in this heavenly state, in which life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel. This is apparently the preferable sense.
According as he hath chosen us in him - As he has decreed from the beginning of the world, and has kept in view from the commencement of the religious system of the Jews, (which the phrase sometimes means), to bring us Gentiles to the knowledge of this glorious state of salvation by Christ Jesus. The Jews considered themselves an elect or chosen people, and wished to monopolize the whole of the Divine love and beneficence. The apostle here shows that God had the Gentiles as much in the contemplation of his mercy and goodness as he had the Jews; and the blessings of the Gospel, now so freely dispensed to them, were the proof that God had thus chosen them, and that his end in giving them the Gospel was the same which he had in view by giving the law to the Jews, viz. that they might be holy and without blame before him. And as his object was the same in respect to them both, they should consider that, as he loved them, so they should love one another: God having provided for each the same blessings, they should therefore be ἁγιους , holy - fully separated from earth and sin, and consecrated to God and αμωμους , without blame - having no spot nor imperfection, their inward holiness agreeing with their outward consecration. The words are a metaphor taken from the perfect and immaculate sacrifices which the law required the people to bring to the altar of God. But as love is the fulfilling of the law, and love the fountain whence their salvation flowed, therefore love must fill their hearts towards God and each other, and love must be the motive and end of all their words and works.
Having predestinated us - Προορισας . As the doctrine of eternal predestination has produced much controversy in the Christian world, it may be necessary to examine the meaning of the term, that those who do use it may employ it according to the sense it has in the oracles of God. The verb προοριζω , from προ , before, and ὁριζω , I define, finish, bound, or terminate, whence ὁρος , a boundary or limit, signifies to define beforehand, and circumscribe by certain bounds or limits; and is originally a geographical term, but applied also to any thing concluded, or determined, or demonstrated. Here the word is used to point out God‘s fixed purpose or predetermination to bestow on the Gentiles the blessing of the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ, which adoption had been before granted to the Jewish people; and without circumcision, or any other Mosaic rite, to admit the Gentiles to all the privileges of his Church and people. And the apostle marks that all this was fore-determined by God, as he had fore-determined the bounds and precincts of the land which he gave them according to the promise made to their fathers; that the Jews had no reason to complain, for God had formed this purpose before he had given the law, or called them out of Egypt; (for it was before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4); and that, therefore, the conduct of God in calling the Gentiles now - bringing them into his Church, and conferring on them the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, was in pursuance of his original design; and, if he did not do so, his eternal purposes could not be fulfilled; and that, as the Jews were taken to be his peculiar people, not because they had any goodness or merit in themselves; so the Gentiles were called, not for any merit they had, but according to the good pleasure of his will; that is, according to his eternal benevolence, showing mercy and conferring privileges in this new creation, as he had done in the original creation; for as, in creating man, he drew every consideration from his own innate eternal benevolence, so now, in redeeming man, and sending the glad tidings of salvation both to the Jews and the Gentiles, be acted on the same principles, deriving all the reasons of his conduct from his own infinite goodness.
To the praise of the glory of his grace - Δοξης της χαριτος αὑτου· The glory of his grace, for χαρις ενδοξος , his glorious or illustrious grace, according to the Hebrew idiom. But the grace or mercy of God is peculiarly illustrated and glorified in the plan of redemption by Christ Jesus. By the giving of the Law, God‘s justice and holiness were rendered most glorious; by the giving of the Gospel, his grace and mercy are made equally conspicuous.
Wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved - This translation of εν ᾑ εχαριτωσεν ἡμας εν τῳ Ηγαπημενῳ is not clear; with which he has graciously favored us through the Beloved, is at once more literal and more intelligible. Whitby, Macknight, and Wakefield translate the passage in nearly the same way.
In whom we have redemption - God has glorified his grace by giving us redemption by the blood of his Son, and this redemption consists in forgiving and delivering us from our sins; so then Christ‘s blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence, so it was manifested in beneficence to mankind, in their redemption by the sacrifice of Christ, the measure of redeeming grace being the measure of God‘s own eternal goodness.
Wherein he hath abounded - That is, in the dispensation of mercy and goodness by Christ Jesus.
In all wisdom and prudence - Giving us apostles the most complete instructions in heavenly things by the inspiration of his Spirit; and at the same time prudence, that we might know when and where to preach the Gospel so that it might be effectual to the salvation of those who heard it. Nothing less than the Spirit of God could teach the apostles that wisdom by which they were to instruct a dark and sinful world; and nothing less than the same Spirit could inspire them with that prudence which was necessary to be exercised in every step of their life and ministry. Every wise man is not a prudent man, and every prudent man is not a wise man. Wisdom and prudence may be expected in an apostle who is constantly living under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. “Wisdom,” according to Sir William Temple, “is that which makes men judge what are the best ends, and what the best means to attain them; and gives a man advantage of counsel and direction.” “Prudence is wisdom applied to practice; or that discreet, apt suiting as well of actions as words, in their due place, time, and manner. Every minister of Christ needs these still; and if he abide not under the influence of both, not only his prayers but his ministerial labors will be all hindered.
Having made known unto us the mystery - That the Gentiles should ever be received into the Church of God, and have all the privileges of the Jews, without being obliged to submit to circumcision, and perform the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law was a mystery - a hidden thing which had never been published before; and now revealed only to the apostles. It was God‘s will that it should be so, but that will he kept hidden to the present time. A mystery signifies something hidden, but it ceases to be a mystery as soon as it is revealed. See the note on Matthew 13:11; and particularly that on Romans 11:25 (note).
Good pleasure - Την ευδοκιαν· That benevolent design which he had purposed in himself, not being induced by any consideration from without.
In the dispensation of the fullness of times - Εις οικονομιαν του πληρωματος των καιρων . The word οικονομια , which is the same as our word economy, signifies, as Dr. Macknight has well observed, “the plan which the master of a family, or his steward, has established for the management of the family;” it signifies, also, a plan for the management of any sort of business: and here it means the dispensation of the Gospel, that plan by which God has provided salvation for a lost world; and according to which he intends to gather all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, into one Church under Jesus Christ, their head and governor. See the note on Matthew 24:45, where the word and the office are particularly explained.
That he might gather together in one - Ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι , from ανα , again, and κεφαλαιοω , to reduce to one sum; to add up; to bring different sums together, and fractions of sums, so as to reduce them under one denomination; to recapitulate the principal matters contained in a discourse. Here it means the gathering together both Jews and Gentiles, who have believed in Christ, into one Church and flock. See the preceding note.
All things - which are in heaven, and which are on earth - This clause is variously understood: some think, by things in heaven the Jewish state is meant and by things on earth the Christian. The Jews had been long considered a Divine or heavenly people; their doctrine, their government, their constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical, were all Divine or heavenly: as the powers of the heavens, Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:26, mean the Jewish rulers in Church and state, it is very possible that the things which are in heaven mean this same state; and as the Gentiles were considered to have nothing Divine or heavenly among them, they may be here intended by the earth, out of the corruption of which they are to be gathered by the preaching of the Gospel. But there are others who imagine that the things in heaven mean the angelical hosts; and the things on earth believers of all nations, who shall all be joined together at last in one assembly to worship God throughout eternity. And some think that the things in heaven mean the saints who died before Christ‘s advent, and who are not to be made perfect till the resurrection, when the full power and efficacy of Christ shall be seen in raising the bodies of believers and uniting them with their holy souls, to reign in his presence for ever. And some think that, as the Hebrew phrase שמים והארץ (shamayim vehaarets), the heavens and the earth, signifies all creatures, the words in the text are to be understood as signifying all mankind, without discrimination of peoples, kindreds, or tongues; Jews, Greeks, or barbarians. All that are saved of all nations, (being saved in the same way, viz. by faith in Christ Jesus, without any distinction of nation or previous condition), and all gathered into one Church or assembly.
In whom - Christ Jesus; also we - believing Jews have obtained an inheritance - what was promised to Abraham and his spiritual seed, viz. the adoption of sons, and the kingdom of heaven, signified by the privileges under the Mosaic dispensation, and the possession of the promised land, but all these privileges being forfeited by the rebellion and unbelief of the Jews, they are now about to be finally cut off, and the believing part to be re-elected, and put in possession of the blessings promised to Abraham and his spiritual seed, by faith; for without a re-election, they cannot get possession of these spiritual privileges.
Being predestinated - God having determined to bring both Jews and Gentiles to salvation, not by works, nor by any human means or schemes, but by Jesus Christ; that salvation being defined and determined before in the Divine mind, and the means by which it should be brought about all being according to his purpose, who consults not his creatures, but operates according to the counsel of his own will, that being ever wise, gracious, and good.
That we - Jews, now apostles and messengers of God, to whom the first offers of salvation were made, and who were the first that believed in Christ.
Should be to the praise of his glory - By being the means of preaching Christ crucified to the Gentiles, and spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
In whom ye also trusted - Ye Gentiles, having heard from us the word, τον λογον , the doctrine, of the truth, which is the Gospel, or glad tidings, of your salvation, have believed, as we Jews have done, and received similar blessings to those with which God has favored us.
Which is the earnest of our inheritance - This Holy Spirit, sealing the soul with truth and righteousness, is the earnest, foretaste, and pledge of the heavenly inheritance. And he who can produce this earnest - this witness of the Spirit, in the day of judgment, shall have an abundant entrance into the holiest. On the αρῥαβων , or earnest, see the notes on Genesis 38:17 (note), etc., and on 2 Corinthians 1:22 (note).
The redemption of the purchased possession - That is, till the time when body and soul are redeemed from all their miseries, and glorified in the kingdom on heaven.
Faith in the Lord Jesus - Cordial reception of the Christian religion, amply proved by their love to all the saints - to all the Christians. Perhaps love here implies, not only the kind affection so called, but also all the fruits of love - benevolence, and kind offices of every description.
Cease not to give thanks - The apostle intimates, so fully satisfied was he of the genuineness of their conversion, and of their steadiness since their conversion, that it was to him a continual cause of thanksgiving to God, who had brought them into that state of salvation; and of prayer, that they might be preserved blameless to the end.
Making mention of you - While praying for the prosperity of the Christian cause generally, he was led, from his particular affection for them, to mention them by name before God.
That the God of our Lord Jesus - Jesus Christ, as man and mediator, has the Father for his God and Father: and it is in reference to this that he himself says: I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God; John 20:17.
The Father of glory - The author and giver of that glory which you expect at the end of your Christian race. This may be a Hebraism for glorious Father, but the former appears to be the best sense.
The Spirit of wisdom and revelation - I pray that God may give you his Holy Spirit, by whom his will is revealed to men, that he may teach and make you wise unto salvation, that you may continue to acknowledge him, Christ Jesus, as your only Lord and Savior.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened - The understanding is that power or faculty in the soul by which knowledge or information is received, and the recipient power is here termed the Eyes of the understanding; and we learn from this that ὁπερ ὁ οφθαλμος εν τῳ σωματι, τουτο ὁ νους εν τῃ ψυχη , as Philo expresses it: What the eye is to the body, the understanding is to the soul; and that as the eye is not light in itself, and can discern nothing but by the means of light shining, not only on the objects to be viewed, but into the eye itself; so the understanding of man can discern no sacred thing of or by itself, but sees by the influence of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; for without the influence of God‘s Holy Spirit no man ever became wise unto salvation, no more than a man ever discerned an object, (no matter how perfect soever his eye might have been), without the instrumentality of light.
The hope of his calling - That you may clearly discern the glorious and important objects of your hope, to the enjoyment of which God has called or invited you.
The riches of the glory of his inheritance - That you may understand what is the glorious abundance of the spiritual things to which you are entitled, in consequence of being made children of God; for if children, then heirs, heirs of that glorious inheritance which God has provided for the saints - for all genuine Christians, whether formerly Jews or Gentiles. On the chief subject of this verse, see the notes on Galatians 4:6, Galatians 4:7 (note).
The exceeding greatness of his power - As the apostle is here speaking of the glorious state of believers after death, the exceeding greatness of his power, or that power which surpasses all difficulties, being itself omnipotent, is to be understood of that might which is to be exerted in raising the body at the last day; as it will require the same power or energy which he wrought in Christ, when he raised his body from the grave, to raise up the bodies of all mankind; the resurrection of the human nature of Christ being a proof of the resurrection of mankind in general.
According to the working of his mighty power - Κατα την ενεργειαν του κρατους της ισχυος αυτου· According to the energy of the power of his might. We may understand these words thus: Might, ισχυς , is the state or simple efficiency of this attribute in God; Power, κρατος , is this might or efficiency in action; Energy, ενεργεια , is the quantum of force, momentum, or velocity, with which the power is applied. Though they appear to be synonymous terms they may be thus understood: passive power is widely different from power in action; and power in action will be in its results according to the energy or momentum with which it is applied. The resurrection of the dead is a stupendous work of God; it requires his might in sovereign action; and when we consider that all mankind are to be raised and changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, then the momentum, or velocity, with which the power is to be applied must be inconceivably great. All motion is in proportion to the quantity of matter in the mover, and the velocity with which it is applied. The effect here is in proportion to the cause and the energy he puts forth in order to produce it. But such is the nature of God‘s power in action, that it is perfectly inconceivable to us; and even these astonishingly strong words of the apostle are to be understood as used in condescension to human weakness.
Set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places - Gave him, as mediator between God and man, the highest honors and dignities, Philemon 2:9; in which state of exaltation he transacts all the affairs of his Church, and rules the universe. The right hand is the place of friendship, honor, confidence, and authority.
Far above all principality - The difficulty in this verse does not arise from the words themselves, the meaning of each being easily understood, but from the sense in which the apostle uses them. Some think he has reference here to the different orders among good and evil angels; he is superior to all the former, and rules all the latter. Others think he refers to earthly governments; and as αρχη , principality, the first word, signifies the most sovereign and extensive kind of dominion; and κυριοτης , lordship, the last word, signifies the lowest degree of authority; hence we are to understand that to our Lord, in his human nature, are subjected the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest orders of beings in the universe. - Chandler. Others imagine that the apostle has in view, by whatsoever is named in this world, all the dignitaries of the Jewish Church; and by what is named in the world to come, all the dignities that should be found in the Christian Church.
And hath put all things under his feet - All beings and things are subject to him, whether they be thrones, dominions, principalities, or powers, Colossians 1:16-18; Colossians 2:10; for he, God the Father, has given him to be head - chief, and supreme, over all, to the Church, the Church having no ruler but Jesus Christ; others may be officers in his Church, but he alone is head and supreme.
Which is his body - As he is head over all things, he is head to the Church; and this Church is considered as the body of which he is especially the head; and from him, as the head, the Church receives light, life, and intelligence.
And is the fullness of him - That in which he especially manifests his power, goodness, and truth; for though he fills all the world with his presence, yet he fills all the members of his mystical body with wisdom, goodness, truth, and holiness, in an especial manner. Some understand the fullness or πληρωμα , here, as signifying the thing to be filled; so the Christian Church is to be filled by him, whose fullness fills all his members, with all spiritual gifts and graces. And this corresponds with what St. John says, John 1:16: And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. And with what is said, Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10: Ye are complete in him; και εστε εν αυτῳ πεπληρωμενοι· And ye are in him filled full; i.e. with gifts and grace.
Thursday, March 6th, 2014
the Last Week after Epiphany
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