Home / Bible Commentaries / Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament/ Ephesians
Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
SECTION I. — THE GREETING. CH. 1:1, 2.
Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus and the believing ones in Christ Jesus, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the Churches at Ephesus and at Rome, and to these only Paul writes simply in his own name. In all his other letters, for special reasons, he joins others with himself as approving what he is about to say. But there are no such reasons now. It is true that Timothy was (Acts 19:22) with Paul at Ephesus. But we have no proof that he took any prominent part in the work there. Consequently, the special interest in him which led, apparently, to his association with Paul in the Epistle to the Philippians was not present in this case.
An apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God: word for word as in Colossians 1:1.
The saints: as in Romans 15:25-26. See under Romans 1:7.
Which are or exist: calling attention to the existence of saints at Ephesus.
Believing: same Greek word as in Colossians 1:2, uniting the senses of faithful and believing. Nothing here suggests the meaning faithful or trustworthy. And, as the exposition believers in Christ Jesus would give good sense as a specially Christian designation, this is perhaps the sense intended.
In Christ Jesus: as in Ephesians 1:15; see under Colossians 1:4.
Grace etc.: word for word as in Romans 1:7.
The words in Ephesus are, in the two oldest and best copies, which very seldom agree in error, found only inserted by a much later hand. Basil says
(Against Eunomius bk. ii. 19) that they were absent from the earliest copies he had seen. Origen, followed by Jerome, gives an exposition of this verse which suggests that the words were not in the copies used.
Tertullian, who holds firmly that the Epistle was written to the Ephesians, charges Marcion (Against Marcion bk. v. 11, 17) with interpolating the words to the Laodiceans; and appeals against him to the truth of the Church, but not expressly to the wording of the superscription. This suggests that in the copies be had seen these words were not actually found in the text of the Epistle, but as we may suppose only in the title. All this proves that at a very early date the words were absent from some copies of the Epistle. They are, however, found in all later copies, and in all versions. And, as by Tertullian so by all writers, the Epistle is universally quoted without a shadow of doubt as written to the Ephesians.
Of these remarkable facts, two explanations have been given. (1) That the words are genuine, and were omitted by some copyists because it seemed unlikely that to a Church in which he had lived three years Paul would write a letter without any personal references. But that in the infancy of literary criticism this was detected, that a scribe would dare to omit words for this reason, and that the omission spread so far as the above facts testify, is most unlikely. (2) That copies of this Epistle were sent to other Churches in the province of Asia, each bearing the name of the Church to which it was sent; that the copies bearing the names of other towns have without exception vanished; but that the observed difference between the copies led some early scribes, in uncertainty about the Church intended, to omit altogether the name of any specific town. This would agree with our explanation of the letter from Laodicea in Colossians 4:16. That all copies with names other than Ephesus should vanish completely, seems unlikely. But copies in the metropolis would be more likely to survive than those directed to small towns in the interior such as Laodicea. This view is not discredited by the unanimity with which the Epistle is designated as that to the Ephesians. For it would naturally become known, and take its name, chiefly from the capital of the province: cp. Tertullian quoted in Introd. ii. of my Romans. On the whole, this latter seems the easiest explanation of the facts of the case.
This latter suggestion will also account for a letter so general being written to a Church so well known to Paul. In a letter designed also for other Churches in Asia Paul may well have written only words suitable for all, leaving personal matters (Ephesians 6:21) to be conveyed by Tychicus.
DIVISION I DOCTRINE.
SECTION 2. PRAISE FOR GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE OF MERCY TO JEWS AND GENTILES. CH. 1:3-14.
Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him, in love having foreordained us to adoption through Jesus Christ for Him, according to the good pleasure of His will, for praise of the glory of His grace, which grace He gave to us in the Beloved One.
In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Him, for the dispensation of the fulness of the seasons, to gather up together all things in Christ, those in the heavens and those on the earth; in Him, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we should be for praise of His glory who had before hoped in the Christ.
In whom also ye, having heard the word of the truth, the Gospel of your salvation-in whom also having believed ye were sealed with the Spirit of promise, the Holy Spirit, which is an earnest of our inheritance for redemption of the possession, for praise of His glory.
Section 2 contains three clearly marked divisions, each closing with a solemn refrain: Ephesians 1:3-6; Ephesians 1:7-12; Ephesians 1:13-14.
Ephesians 1:3. An outburst of praise, beginning word for word as in 2 Corinthians 1:3.
God, the Father: or more literally God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Object of Paul’s praise unites in Himself two titles: He is God and He is also the Father of Christ. See under Romans 15:6. Christ, our Master, spoke constantly of God as His Father: and thus gave to men a new conception of God, and to God a new name among men.
Blessed: literally spoken-good-of: see under Romans 1:25. Paul desires that the goodness of God be recognized by the praises of His creatures. The word blessed introduces a song of praise.
We bless God because He first has blessed us. The meaning of blessing from God to man may be learnt from the O.T. where the phrase is frequent; a good example in Deuteronomy 28:36. It there denotes enrichment with the highest good, especially with such good as only God can give. The form of the Greek word bless reminds us that these benefits are conveyed to us by the speaking voice of God.
Spiritual: pertaining to the Spirit of God; the usual meaning of the word. See under Romans 1:11.
Spiritual blessing: enrichment wrought by the Holy Spirit and therefore pertaining to the realm of spiritual things.
Every spiritual blessing: suggests variety of such benefits, and asserts that no kind of spiritual enrichment is wanting to us.
Heavenly-places or heavenly-things, literally the heavenlies: same word in 1 Corinthians 15:40; 1 Corinthians 15:48-49 where evidently it denotes things pertaining to heaven. So Philippians 2:10.
In the heavenly places: Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12, denoting in each case the supramundane world, and in all but the last the world of heavenly blessedness. And this gives good sense here. The good things with which God has enriched us belong to heaven, and will be there enjoyed. And since already (Philippians 3:20) our citizenship and (Matthew 6:20) our treasure are in heaven, Paul could say that God has already blessed us in the heavenly places. By forming the purpose expounded in Ephesians 1:4-5, He has already enriched us: and the riches thus given are laid up for us amid the good things in heaven, where neither accident nor decay can destroy or lessen them.
To the locality of this blessing, viz. in heaven, Paul adds its personal element: in Christ. Our spiritual enrichment is a result of events which took place in the personality of Christ, His birth, death, resurrection, and ascension, a result conditioned by inward spiritual contact with Him. Cp. 2 Corinthians 5:19, God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.
It is needless to ask whether Paul refers here to blessing given to men once for all when God gave Christ to die, or given when each one appropriates by faith the various blessings resulting from the events of His human life. For both personal faith and the historic facts are essential links of the chain of blessing: and therefore in Paul’s thought they were indissolubly joined.
Ephesians 1:4. According as He chose us etc.: traces up this blessing, given by God to men in time, to its eternal source and counterpart, viz. a corresponding purpose of God before time began.
Chose us, or more fully, selected for-Himself: He took a smaller out of a larger number. See note under Romans 9:13.
Us: further defined in the fundamental Gospel of Paul, Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-22, as those who believe the Gospel. Not that their foreseen faith in any way moved God to save them; but that, moved only by pity for lost man, God resolved to save men by means of the good news announced by Christ, and to save those who should believe it.
In Him; expounds and justifies in Christ in Ephesians 1:3.
Before the foundation of the world: same words in John 17:24; 1 Peter 1:20; instructive parallels. Before God began to make the great platform on which have lived the successive generations of men, all future ages were present to His thought: and in view of the sin and ruin which He foresaw, He resolved to save men; not all men indiscriminately, but those who should believe the Gospel; and to place these in special relation to Himself as His own. An interesting parallel in 2 Timothy 1:9. Of that eternal purpose, the salvation of each man is a corresponding realization in time: according as etc. And, inasmuch as this purpose could be accomplished only through the agency and the death of Christ and by spiritual contact with Him, it has special reference to Him. In this sense, God chose us for Himself in Christ.
Holy: subjectively holy, as in 1 Corinthians 7:34; see note under Romans 1:7. For it describes here God’s purpose touching what we are to be, viz. unreservedly loyal to Himself; not, as in Ephesians 1:1, a character already possessed, viz. that of men whom God has claimed for His own and who, by that claim, whatever their actual conduct may be, are placed in a new relation to God. Cp. Ephesians 4:27, Colossians 1:22; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23. In each case, whether used objectively or subjectively, the word holy denotes a special and sacred relation to God.
And blameless: same word and connection and meaning as in Colossians 1:22. It is the negative side of holiness. For all sin opposes God; and is therefore inconsistent with unreserved devotion to God.
Before Him: i.e. God, who chose us for Himself, formed for us this purpose of holiness and purity, and watches its accomplishment. Same words in Colossians 1:22.
In love: may belong either to Ephesians 1:4, asserting that love to our fellows is the surrounding element of the holiness which God designs for His chosen ones, or to Ephesians 1:5 asserting that God’s love to man is the element and source of his predestination of believers to sonship. The latter exposition is the more likely. For there is nothing in the context suggesting, or seeming to require mention of, Christian love. Whereas, in praise to God for blessing received, mention of His love as the ultimate source of all blessing is specially appropriate. By placing these words first, Paul throws into great prominence the love which prompted the predestination to sonship.
Ephesians 1:5. A participial clause, describing in further detail the foregoing statement, He chose us. A similar participial clause in Ephesians 1:9.
Foreordained, or predestined: marked out beforehand a path along which, and a goal to which, He would have the chosen ones go. See under Romans 8:29. The syllable fore-denotes a destination before the time when it can be accomplished. So ‘before’-hoped in Ephesians 1:12.
For adoption: the marked out goal, viz. reception into the family of God as His sons. See under Romans 8:15.
Through Jesus Christ: expounded in Galatians 4:4-5. Through the agency of the Eternal Son we become sons.
For Him: probably, for God. It denotes the intimate relation to God, the Father of the whole family of heaven, in which as His sons, God designs the predestined ones to stand. Notice that adoption is the immediate aim of this divine purpose, holiness is its ultimate aim: He chose us to be holy, having foreordained us to adoption. And the Agent of holiness is the Spirit of adoption.
We have here in close connection election and predestination. The former marks out the objects of salvation; the latter, the goal to which God purposes to bring them.
Good-pleasure: same word in Philippians 1:15; Philippians 2:13, where see notes. In the case of God, the two senses of benevolence and free choice coalesce. Perhaps here the latter is more conspicuous.
Of His will; represents God contemplating and approving His own resolve.
According-to: a favourite word of Paul to describe a correspondence between action and some underlying principle. This clause traces up to the divinely-approved will of God the foregoing predestination to adoption. Paul remembers with gratitude that this purpose of mercy seemed good in His sight.
Ephesians 1:6. Further and final aim of the predestination: viz. in order that the splendour which belongs to the free undeserved favour of God may evoke recognition and praise.
Glory: as in Philippians 1:11.
Grace: see under Romans 1:5.
Which grace He gave, or which He graciously gave; lays stress by repetition on the undeserved favour of God.
In the Beloved One: parallel with chosen in Him in Ephesians 1:4. Cp. Colossians 1:13, Son of His love.
Paul here represents Christ as a special object of the eternal love of God, and ourselves as united to Christ and therefore sharers of the love with which God regards Him. Thus the love of God to Christ becomes undeserved favour towards those who are united to Christ. God purposed that the grandeur or glory of this grace should appear, and thus evoke praise. To this end, acting in harmony with a divine resolve approved by Him, and in infinite love, God marked out for us, to be appropriated by faith, an entrance into His family as His sons. In this way He chose us for Himself, that we may stand before Him as sacred and spotless men.
Ephesians 1:7. Second part of § 2. It is a further exposition of the grace given in the Beloved One.
We have: actual incipient accomplishment of God’s purpose of mercy.
In whom… redemption: as in Colossians 1:14.
Through His blood: as in Colossians 1:20, through the blood of His cross: practically the same as Romans 5:9, justified in His blood. These words assert in the clearest manner that our liberation from the penalty and bondage of sin comes through Christ’s death upon the cross. The need for this costly means of redemption, Paul expounds in Romans 3:26. Notice that liberation was wrought out for us in the personality of Christ, and is ours by inward union with Him; and that His violent death is the channel through which it comes forth from God to us.
Forgiveness of sins: as in Colossians 1:14. It is in harmony with, and must be measured by, the abundance which characterizes God’s favour towards us: according to the riches etc. Cp. Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2; Romans 11:33; 2 Corinthians 8:2 : favourite phraseology of Paul. Thus God has made us (Ephesians 1:6) objects of His grace. Notice the emphatic repetition of this last word, after its use twice in Ephesians 1:6. It is the source of all blessing from God to us.
Ephesians 1:8. Further elucidation of the grace of God, showing the specific form it took.
Which grace He made to abound towards us: i.e. gave to us in abundant measure, or so as to work in us abundant results. Same phrase in 2 Corinthians 9:8 : cp. Romans 5:15. It expounds the riches of His grace in Ephesians 1:7.
All wisdom: every kind of wisdom: see under Colossians 1:9.
Prudence: a practical faculty enabling men to select, in the various details and emergencies of life, the most profitable line of action. The connection of the two words reminds us that in Christ acquaintance with the eternal realities has practical worth as a guide in the details of life; and that among these details we can choose our steps aright only in the light of the eternal realities. Evidently this wisdom and prudence are God’s gift, making us wise and prudent, as we learn from Ephesians 1:9 where the knowledge imparted is specified. Paul here asserts that the undeserved favour of God given to us so abundantly has been clothed with every kind of wisdom and discretion. These are the forms in which the grace of God was manifested. Cp. Colossians 1:9 : all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
Ephesians 1:9. A participial clause explaining the assertion in Ephesians 1:8. By making known to us the mystery, God gave to us in abundant measure His undeserved favour clothed in wisdom and prudence.
Mystery: as in Colossians 1:26.
Of His Will: the contents of this mystery. It is further described in Ephesians 1:10. This will of God was kept secret during long ages, and is known now only by those to whom God reveals it. It is therefore the mystery of His will. Cp. Romans 16:25.
To us: to Christians generally: Colossians 1:26. Another aspect of the same revelation is given in Ephesians 3:3. It was made known to Paul and through him to his hearers and readers.
According to His good pleasure: as in Ephesians 1:5. It is not clear whether this refers to the mystery or to the making-known of it. But, since both are included in the same divine purpose, possibly in Paul’s thought they were not distinguished.
He purposed: as in Romans 8:28; Romans 9:11; important parallels. That which was well-pleasing to God He deliberately purposed to effect.
In Him: either in Christ or in God. In the former case it would be rendered (R.V.) in Him: in the latter (A.V.) in Himself. Although the foregoing possessive pronouns refer to the Father, a comparison with Ephesians 1:4, chosen in Him, suggests that Paul refers here to Christ. Moreover, to say that God’s purpose was formed in God, is tautology: to say that it was formed in Christ, adds an important thought kept before us in Ephesians 1:10, viz. the relation of this divine purpose to the Son of God.
Ephesians 1:10. Exposition of the foregoing.
With-a-view-to etc.: in forming this purpose God was looking forward to the time of Christ.
Dispensation: same word as stewardship in Colossians 1:25; 1 Corinthians 9:17. It denotes the management of a house. And, since this was frequently committed to a superior servant, or steward, it denotes frequently the office of a steward. So always elsewhere in the N.T. It cannot be so here. For, evidently, God is represented as administering His own household. The word falls back therefore on its original meaning of house management. It is the government of God represented as a householder managing his property and servants.
Seasons: portions of time, looked upon not as periods passing by but as opportunities for action. Same word in Ephesians 5:16 : also 1 Thessalonians 5:1; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1, etc. The plural suggests that in the Gospel age several ages had their consummation.
Fulness: see under Colossians 1:19.
The fulness of the seasons: the time in which the various ages of the kingdom of God find their end and goal, and the accomplishment of the purpose which underlays them. And this can be no other than the Gospel age, and the glorious ages to follow it. Consequently, the dispensation of etc. is the mode of divine government which belongs to that age. All this God had in view in forming His purpose of salvation.
To-sum-up-again (same word in Romans 13:9) all things in Christ: God’s purpose touching the final administration of His kingdom.
All things: men and things, as in Colossians 1:20. God resolved to unite together in Christ the dissevered elements of His universe, thus making Him the centre and circumference of all.
Sum-up-again; suggests an original harmony. This, God purposes to restore. [The middle voice suggests that God will do this to work out His own pleasure.] All things include the things upon the heavens and those upon the earth. So 1 Corinthians 1:20; a close parallel. In the one passage Christ is an instrument of universal reconciliation; in the other, a centre of universal harmony.
This verse teaches that the eternal purpose which prompted, as the means of its accomplishment, the mission of the Son of God embraced both earth and heaven; that God has resolved to unite into one whole the various elements in these realms of His empire; and to make Christ the surrounding element and the centre of this all-embracing union. In other words, God’s purpose to save man is part of a purpose earlier in time, and wider in extent, than the human race.
In Him: emphatic repetition of in Christ, as a transition to the relative sentence following in which the same idea is again prominent.
Ephesians 1:11. A new thought: in Christ we have also been-made-heirs. This last word is the passive form of a verb denoting to allot something to some one, and especially to allot as an inheritance. In Greek, such a passive may mean either to be allotted as an inheritance, or to receive such an allotment. The latter sense is the more likely here. For, that believers are themselves an inheritance is not taught elsewhere in the N.T. In Ephesians 1:14 they are represented as God’s own possession, but not as an inherited possession. But, that they are heirs, is plainly asserted in Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29 : and some are said in Colossians 1:12 to have been made partakers of the allotted portion of the saints. And this allotment of inherited blessing has been made to us in Christ. For, only through His agency and by inward union with Him is the inheritance ours.
The participial clause following traces this allotment of an inheritance to a definite and eternal purpose of God.
Having-been foreordained: passive form of the word used in Ephesians 1:5. We have been made heirs in time because before time began we were in the mind of God marked out for heirship.
According to purpose: same words in same sense in Romans 8:28. They give prominence to the chief element in the foreordination, viz. purpose, and tell us that it was a purpose of Him whose deliberate resolve controls and moulds all things.
Works: as in Philippians 2:13.
Works all things: same words in 1 Corinthians 12:6.
Counsel: a deliberate purpose taking into account ways and means. This deliberate purpose has its source in the will of God. The idea of deliberation distinguishes this phrase from the similar phrase in Ephesians 1:5 where God’s satisfaction with His own purpose is more prominent.
Ephesians 1:12. A refrain marking the close of the second part of § 2, similar to that in Ephesians 1:6 at the close of the first part. This fuller refrain tells us that God intended us to be a means of evoking praise of His splendour; and that this praise is an aim of the purpose described in Ephesians 1:11. God resolved so to bless us that in us others should see and acknowledge His grandeur.
Up to this point Paul’s words have been true alike of Jews and Gentiles. He now mentions the two great divisions of mankind which were ever present to his thought. In Ephesians 1:12 the Jews, and in Ephesians 1:13-14 the Gentiles, are specified.
Before-hoped: i.e. before the Christ came. This hope of a coming deliverer was a distinguishing feature of the Jews: Acts 26:6-7; Acts 28:20; Luke 2:25; Luke 2:38. It was a bond uniting together the scattered members of the nation; and an inspiration moulding the piety of the more devout. The Gentiles had no such hope: Ephesians 2:12. The word Christ is both a designation of the hoped-for Deliverer (Daniel 9:25; John 1:20; John 4:25) and a proper name of the Incarnate Son. The latter is naturally the usual use of the word. But here the mention of a hope earlier than the incarnation suggests the former use. The Messiah, who was the great object of Jewish hopes, is represented as the ground of their hope: so 1 Corinthians 15:19; Philippians 2:19. For, long before He appeared, the Jews clung to the hoped-for Deliverer and built upon Him their expectations.
Ephesians 1:13-14. Third part of § 2.
In whom: parallel with the same words in Ephesians 1:7 at the beginning of the second part.
Also ye: the Gentile Christians at Ephesus, as well as the Jews referred to specially in Ephesians 1:12.
Having heard etc.: means by which salvation had reached the Ephesian Christians, viz. the word spoken and heard.
The word of the truth: as in Colossians 1:5. It is a verbal expression corresponding to the eternal realities.
The Gospel of your salvation: the good news which has been and is the means of your salvation. So 1 Corinthians 15:2. The word preached was an assertion of the truth: it was also the good news which had been the means of rescuing the Ephesian Christians from the penalty and power of sin.
After the participial clause we expect a finite word. But instead of this we have another participial clause: in whom also having believed. Apparently the construction of the sentence is broken off. The relative, in whom or in which, is repeated, disturbing the orderly course of the sentence. But the irregularity throws into prominence the truth that the sealing afterwards mentioned was in Christ. Paul wishes to say that in Christ the Gentile Christians, having heard the Gospel, and having also believed it, were sealed etc. This surrender of grammar to emphasis is a conspicuous feature in Paul: so Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 5:12; Galatians 2:6.
The Spirit of promise: the gift of the Spirit foretold by the prophets, e.g. Joel 2:28-29; Ezekiel 36:26-27. The Spirit of promise is then identified as the Holy Spirit. With this Spirit as an instrument the Gentile Christians had been sealed: close parallel to 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. Paul asserts that his readers, whom he distinguishes from the Jews, had heard the Gospel and had believed it; that through faith they had received the Holy Spirit as foretold by the ancient prophets; and that the Spirit thus received was a seal, i.e. a divine attestation of the word believed. And he declares with emphatic repetition that this sealing had taken place in virtue of their inward union with Christ. He thus joins the believing Gentiles to those who when Christ came were waiting for His appearance. Notice that the gift of the Spirit proves that the Gentiles are sharers of the blessings brought by Christ: Acts 11:17-18. This proof is strengthened by the word promise, which reminds us that the Holy Spirit given to the Gentiles was a fulfilment of ancient Jewish prophecy.
This verse is in close harmony with the constant teaching of Paul that they who believe the Gospel are justified, and adopted into the family of God, and receive the Holy Spirit: e.g. Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:26.
Ephesians 1:14. Further teaching about the Holy Spirit, and about God’s purpose in sealing us.
Earnest: a part of the price paid at the time of purchase as a pledge of the whole. See under 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5 : close and important parallels.
Our inheritance: the benefits of the New Covenant looked upon as coming to us in virtue of our relation to God our Father. Close parallels in Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Colossians 3:24. Of these benefits, the gift of the Spirit is a part given to us when we are received into the family of God. And inasmuch as this gift is a proof that we are children of God, it is also a pledge that the entire inheritance will some day be ours. The word rendered possession denotes in 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14 the obtaining of salvation and of the glory of Christ; and in Hebrews 10:39 the preserving of the soul. But in Malachi 2:17 and in a quotation in 1 Peter 2:9 from Exodus 19:5 it represents a Hebrew word denoting a peculiar possession or treasure. God declared that Israel, if faithful, should be His own peculiar treasure. And such are they who believe in Christ. They will be God’s own for ever.
Redemption; includes the ideas of liberation and price, and is therefore not complete till actual liberation is effected. Cp. Ephesians 4:30, the day of redemption; Luke 21:28; Romans 8:23 : see under Romans 3:24. An aim of the gift of the Spirit is the liberation in the great day from the bondage of death of those whom God has chosen to be specially His own.
For praise of His glory: nearly word for word as in Ephesians 1:12. It is a third refrain closing the third part of § 2. Each refrain represents, as the final purpose of man’s salvation in its various parts, an admiring recognition by God’s creatures of His essential grandeur. Cp. 1 Peter 2:9. The threefold refrain makes this final purpose very conspicuous.
REVIEW. Section 2 is throughout a song of praise for blessings given by God to Paul and his readers, a song rising in each of its three parts till it seems to lose itself in the eternal song of earth and heaven. In the first part we have blessing from man to God for blessing given by God to man in fulfilment of an eternal purpose that men should be sons of God. In the second part we are reminded that the objects of this purpose are sinners. Consequently, God’s favour towards them took the form of rescue, through the death of Christ, from the penalty and bondage of sin.
Moreover, His favour came to them clothed in a gift of wisdom revealing God’s long-hidden purpose to bring men into His family and to make them His heirs, this being part of a wider purpose to unite the creatures of God in heaven and earth into one great whole of which Christ is to be the Head and Centre and Circumference, a purpose of Him whose counsels rule and mould the universe.
Up to this point, in the light of a divine purpose wide as the universe and earlier than time, all human distinctions have been forgotten. But at the close of the second part of the section, we meet the all-important distinction of Jew and Gentile so deeply interwoven into the thought of Paul. The above purpose of God embraces the Jews, who before Messiah came had built their hopes on His expected appearance. And it embraces the Gentiles: for they have not only heard and believed the Gospel but have received the seal of the Holy Spirit promised to ancient Israel, who is Himself a pledge that they will share the inheritance of the sons of Abraham and the deliverance which awaits those who are the peculiar treasure of God. This specific mention of the Gentiles as sharers of the heritage of Israel forms the third and last division of the section. Each division concludes by pointing to the eternal recognition of the greatness of God as the ultimate aim of the blessing and favour so richly poured upon man.
In this section we have a restatement of Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:28-29; Romans 9:11 that salvation is an accomplishment of a divine purpose and choice and predestination. The restatement has the emphasis of conspicuous repetition. The purpose to save man is traced back to eternity; is shown to be part of a purpose embracing both earth and heaven; and is placed in closest relation to Christ. In other words, Paul’s earlier teaching has received rich and harmonious development. We have again his favourite thought that the Gospel contains a secret known only to the initiated; as in Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Colossians 1:26. The gift of the Spirit is again appealed to as a proof of the favour of God and as a pledge of a share in the inheritance awaiting the sons of God; in close harmony with Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:6, and with Acts 11:17-18. A marked feature of this section is the occurrence in it ten times of the phrase in Christ or its equivalents, noting an inward union with Him as the all-embracing and all-pervading element both of salvation and of the eternal purpose to save. This we have already noticed as a conspicuous feature of the writings of Paul, a feature not found elsewhere in the N.T. except, in a peculiar form, in the Gospel and First Epistle of John. Its presence here in so great frequency, but never without meaning, is a clear indication of genuineness: as are the coincidences noted above. We notice the word redemption used to describe the deliverance wrought through the death of Christ, as in Romans 3:24; and with special reference to the final deliverance, as in Romans 8:23. Also the word wealth, as in Romans 2:4; Romans 9:23; Romans 11:33; Colossians 1:27; and the word earnest, as in 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5.
As we rise from the study of this section we are conscious that we have heard the tones of a familiar voice, and have learnt from the lips of a revered teacher new lessons equal to the most valuable we had learnt before.
SECTION 3. — PRAYER THAT THE READERS MAY RECOGNISE IN THEMSELVES THE GREAT POWER WHICH RAISED CHRIST FROM THE DEAD. CH. 1:15-23.
For which cause also I, having heard the faith among you in the Lord Jesus, and the faithfulness towards all the saints, do not cease giving thanks on your behalf making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Him having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, in order that ye may know what is the hope of your calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance among the saints, and what the surpassing greatness of His power towards us who believe, according to the working of the might of His strength which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His right hand in the heavenly places beyond and above all principality and authority and power and lordship and every name named not only in this age but also in that which is to be.
And He subjected all things under His feet; and gave Him, as Head above all things, to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all things in all.
Paul began his Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, after a few words of greeting, with thanks to God for his readers’ Christian life. The Epistle before us, he begins with a glorious psalm of praise for blessings given to the whole people of God, which he expounds at some length, followed by specific mention of Jewish and Gentile Christians. The mention of these last suggests now definite thanks to God on his readers’ behalf, thanks which pass easily into a wonderful prayer for their further progress. His thanks and prayer occupy this section.
Ephesians 1:15. For which cause: because you have been sealed by the Spirit as heirs of the inheritance of God.
Also I: Paul placing himself alongside these Gentiles, as interested in their welfare.
Having-heard: cp. Colossians 1:4, to a Church Paul has never visited; and contrast Philippians 1:3, where the absence of this word suggests that he writes from personal knowledge. That Paul speaks only of having heard about people among whom (Acts 20:31) he laboured three years, is certainly remarkable. It can hardly be explained by tidings received since he left Ephesus four or five years before. For it was nearly as long since he was at Philippi; and after leaving Philippi he met the Ephesian elders at Miletus. More likely is the suggestion (see under Ephesians 1:1) that this letter was written to other Churches besides that at Ephesus, Churches which Paul had never visited; and that chiefly to tidings about these last, together with later tidings about the Ephesians, the word have-heard refers. This word therefore supports the suggestion just mentioned.
The faith among you: differs very slightly from your faith, by making faith and the believer distinct objects of thought.
Faith in the Lord Jesus: similar phrase in 1 Timothy 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:15. It represents Christ, the personal object and ground of our faith, as also its surrounding element.
The word love, omitted from the text of the R.V., is not found in any Greek copy earlier than the Clermont MS. in the sixth century, and in a correction of the Sinai MS. made perhaps in the seventh century. It is absent entirely from the Vat. and Alex. MSS. and from the Sinai MS. as originally written; and seems to have been unknown to the early Biblical scholars, Origen and Jerome. But it is found in the Latin, Syriac, and Coptic Versions. If spurious, the insertion of the word is easily accounted for as a reminiscence of Colossians 1:4. But, if genuine, its omission is very difficult to explain. This likelihood of insertion and unlikeliness of omission, together with the united testimony of the ancient Greek MSS.,
our best witnesses for the text of the N.T., testify strongly that the word was not written by Paul. And that without it the sentence gives a good meaning, I shall endeavour to show.
In the sense in which Paul writes faith in the Lord Jesus, we cannot possibly have faith… in all the saints. Certainly these last cannot be the object or element of Christian faith. But the common classic meaning which I have given to the same word in Philemon 1:4, and which is found in a few places in the N.T., viz. faithfulness, would give a good meaning here. That one word would then be used in the same sentence in two senses, need not surprise us. For each use of the word was common, the first in the N.T. and the other in the Greek spoken everywhere in Paul’s day. And the context makes quite clear that the word cannot have in the second clause the meaning which it undoubtedly has in the first. In such cases the mind passes almost unconsciously from one sense of the word to another. Moreover, faith and faithfulness have much in common. They who rest with confidence upon the word and character of God become themselves a rock on which others rest. Hence, in Greek the same words, substantive and adjective, denote faith and faithfulness, believing and trustworthy. Between these meanings it is frequently difficult to decide: e.g. Colossians 1:2; Colossians 4:9. An example of transition from one to the other, we have in Romans 3:3. ‘What if some did not believe? Shall the want of faith make of no effect the faith (or faithfulness) of God?’ We may therefore accept this meaning as not unlikely. And it enables us to accept also the reading so strongly supported by the best ancient copies.
But since no English word combines the two meanings of the Greek word, we can reproduce Paul’s full sense only by using two words. The passage may fairly be reproduced, faith in the Lord Jesus and faithfulness towards all the saints. The assurance of which Christ was the personal Object and Ground and Sphere produced as its natural result trustworthiness towards all the saints. These last words as in Colossians 1:4.
Ephesians 1:16. Do not cease giving thanks: cp. Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; Colossians 1:9; Romans 1:8-9. Paul’s constant attitude of mind, since he heard about his readers, has been thankfulness to God for them. For he knew that their faithfulness was God’s work and gift.
Ephesians 1:17. As ever, Paul’s thoughts pass imperceptibly into prayer for further blessing. The good he hears prompts him, while giving thanks, to ask for more.
In order that etc.: matter of the prayer, given as its aim and purpose. So frequently: cp. Philemon 1:6. For Paul’s prayer is a means to a definite end. Knowing that God answers prayer, he prays in order that God… may give.
The God of our Lord Jesus Christ: who on earth addressed Him as My God, John 20:17; Matthew 27:46. The word God here notes a relation of the Father, not only to men, but to Christ. And the entire teaching of Paul and John assures us that this relation extends, not only to the Incarnate, but to the Eternal, Son. As supreme in the Godhead, the Father occupies, even to the Eternal Son, a relation suitably described by the word God. Hence this word is the frequent title of the Father even as distinguished from the Son: see under 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 8:6. For to Him, as God, the Son is and ever will be subject: 1 Corinthians 15:28. A genitive following the word father usually describes his children. But the abstract term glory cannot do this. It is evidently a characterizing quality of the Father of Christ and of us. So 2 Corinthians 1:3, Father of compassions; Acts 7:2, God of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8, Lord of glory. Paul prays to Him to whom the divine Head of the Church bows as God, to the Father, clothed in infinite grandeur, of Christ and of us.
Spirit of wisdom: the Holy Spirit, as an animating principle possessing and imparting wisdom. See under 1 Corinthians 4:21, Spirit of meekness; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:15. For the word cannot denote here a human spirit: nor does it ever, apparently, denote mere disposition of mind. [The absence of the Greek article is frequent even when the one Holy Spirit is indisputably referred to: e.g. Romans 8:9-11; Romans 8:14-15. For where a word is in itself sufficiently definite, the Greeks frequently omitted the article, in order to direct attention to the qualities implied in the anarthrous word; in this case, to the Holy Spirit as an animating principle characterized by wisdom.]
Wisdom and revelation: see under 1 Corinthians 2:5; Romans 1:17. It is a characterizing, prerogative of the Spirit of God to impart a knowledge of eternal realities; and, more definitely, to lift a veil which no hand but that of God can lift and which hides from us the unseen things of God. The former term is general: the latter specific. Paul prays that the Father who is characterized by infinite grandeur, who has already (Ephesians 1:13) sealed his readers with the Spirit of promise, may give to them the same Spirit as an inward source of wisdom and as One who reveals the things unseen. His prayer reminds us that each new influence and work of the Spirit is a fresh gift from God.
Knowledge: literally, full-knowledge; as in Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:10.
Of Him: of God, to whom here Paul prays. The Spirit of wisdom comes to us clothed in a deep and real knowledge of God; and makes Himself known to us by imparting such knowledge. For God is Himself the great Reality, and the great Object which appears when the veil is lifted.
Ephesians 1:18. Enlightened: as in Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 10:32.
The heart: the inmost centre of human life, and the source of action: see under Romans 1:21.
The eyes of the heart: the faculty by which knowledge enters into and illumines this inmost chamber.
Having the eyes of your heart enlightened: connecting link between the gift of the Spirit and the personal knowledge which Paul desires for his readers. [The accusative case puts these words in apposition, not as we might have expected to the preceding words give to you, but to those following that ye may know: in order, apparently, to suggest that only by enlightenment of the heart can we receive this desired knowledge. This use of the accusative is made somewhat the more easy by the occasional use of the accusative absolute, as in Romans 8:3.] Before expounding the ultimate aim of his prayer, viz. knowledge of three things pertaining to the Christian life, Paul states conspicuously a condition on which alone this aim can be attained, viz. the entrance of light, ever the condition of knowledge, into the inmost chamber of our nature. This light he hopes for as a result of the gift of the Spirit of God whose special work is to impart wisdom and to unveil mysteries. For He is the one principle of spiritual life. And, always, life is an essential condition of sight.
That ye may know etc.: ultimate aim of the gift of the Spirit, and of inward enlightenment. So Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9. This earnest prayer reveals the infinite importance of knowledge as a condition of Christian life. Three matters, Paul desires his readers to know: two in Ephesians 1:18, and a third in Ephesians 1:19.
His calling: a favourite word of Paul, Romans 1:6; Romans 8:28; Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 7:18; 1 Corinthians 7:20-22, etc; the high calling of God, Philippians 3:14. It is the Gospel summons to salvation, to the service of God, and to eternal glory. To this calling belongs hope: for it gives to those who hear and obey it an expectation of infinite blessing to come. Paul desires that his readers may know how great these blessings are. And to this end be has already prayed that they may receive the Spirit of wisdom. For only the Spirit of God can reveal the greatness of the blessings awaiting the sons of God: cp. 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:12.
And what etc.: second matter which Paul desires His readers to know. It is also the object of the hope just mentioned.
His inheritance: the good things of God which will pass to the saints as His children. For they are heirs of God, Romans 8:17. Of these good things the Spirit of Adoption is the first: cp. Ephesians 1:14. This inheritance has an abundance of splendour which will make truly rich all who receive it. Paul desires his readers to know how great is the abundance of this splendour.
Among or in the saints: cp. Colossians 1:27, among the Gentiles. The saints are represented as standing round their own inheritance. Heirship to the wealth of God is located by God in and among the sacred people of the New Covenant.
Ephesians 1:19 a. A third ultimate aim of Paul’s prayer.
Surpassing: Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:19 : a similar form of the same word, in 2 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:14; the corresponding substantive in Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 1:13, and a corresponding adverb in 2 Corinthians 11:23. This family of words is peculiar to this Epistle and to the undisputed Epistles of Paul. It embodies a thought evidently familiar to him; and is thus a note of genuineness.
Us that believe: Cp. Ephesians 1:13 : another important harmony with Paul’s doctrine of salvation through faith. It tells us the aim and direction of this mighty power. Paul desires his readers to know what, in its operation in the hearts of believers, the greatness of that power is.
Ephesians 1:19-20. According to etc.: a standard by which they may measure it.
Working: or energy: see under Philippians 3:21. Notice the accumulation of synonyms representing different sides of one conception. The word rendered power denotes ability to produce results. That rendered might is the last part of the words autocrat, democrat; and suggests a controlling influence. The word rendered strength is frequently used of muscular force. It suggests the inherent capacity of God for breaking down obstacles and working out His will. The energy of the might of His strength is the activity of the all-controlling and inherent capacity for action which dwells in God. Same words together in Ephesians 6:10.
Which he wrought: specific activity of the power of God to which Paul has just referred as a measure of the power at work in us.
Wrought or energized: cognate to working in Ephesians 1:19. It is used in Galatians 3:5; Matthew 14:2 for the putting forth of miraculous power.
In Christ: objectively and historically, in the personality of the God-Man. Similarly, Romans 3:24; cp. 1 Corinthians 15:22, in Adam all die.
When He raised Him etc.: specific manifestation of the energy of God. Close parallel in Philippians 3:10, the power of His resurrection. Notice that, as ever, Christ is said to have been raised by the power of the Father: so Colossians 2:12; Galatians 1:1; Romans 4:21; Romans 8:11; Romans 10:9.
At His right hand: see under Colossians 3:1. Christ’s session in glory is here represented as being, like His resurrection, a work of God.
In the heavenly places: word for word as in Ephesians 1:3. It depicts further the surroundings of the Risen Lord.
Ephesians 1:21. Further delineation of the position of the Risen One.
Beyond and above: movement upwards going beyond even the most exalted.
All principality and authority: word for word as in Colossians 2:10. Same words in the plural in Colossians 1:16; where see note. They evidently describe successive ranks of angels.
Power: same word as in Ephesians 1:19. In 1 Peter 3:22 we have angels and authorities and powers, made subject to the Risen Saviour.
Lordship: same word in Colossians 1:16, but there placed immediately before principalities or authorities. This change of order makes it impossible to determine whether the order here given is ascending or descending. All that we can infer with certainty is that Paul’s faith saw the Risen and Rising One passing through and beyond and above successive ranks of angelic powers until there was in heaven no grandeur which He had not left behind. Then, after naming heavenly powers known to him, he uses a universal phrase covering not only those known by men living on earth in the present age, but also those names which will be needed and used to describe men and angels throughout the eternal future. Whatever may be thus designated, Christ has already passed.
Every name named: a close parallel in Philippians 2:9. It includes every kind of character and position as recognised by intelligent persons.
Not only etc.; emphasises the universal expression by specifying two component parts of it. So Colossians 1:16. Same division of time in Matthew 12:32.
This age: same words in Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:6; Galatians 1:4; where see notes. It is the present course of things.
That which is to come: the new course of things to be introduced by the coming of Christ, this looked upon as one definite whole.
Ephesians 1:22 a. Further delineation of the exaltation of Christ. For greater emphasis, it is added as an independent sentence.
All-things; keeps up the idea of universality already expressed by the words all and every.
All things He subjected under His feet: word for word as in 1 Corinthians 15:27, which is almost word for word from (LXX.) Psalms 8:6. What the Psalmist asserts of man, in poetic ideal, Paul claims in each passage to have been fulfilled in Christ. And rightly. For, as Son of man, He is heir of whatever belongs to man.
Verse. 22b. The exalted Saviour’s relation to the Church. Notice also a fuller statement of His relation to the universe, this including evidently the angelic powers just mentioned. Christ is not only above the angels, but above all created things as their Head, i.e. as the seat of supreme authority: see under Colossians 1:18.
Above or rather beyond all things: recalling Ephesians 1:21, above and beyond all principality etc. We have here the historic exaltation of the human body and nature of the Son, and His original relation to the universe: see Colossians 1:16-18. In this supreme dignity, raised above and controlling all things, God gave Him to the Church; evidently in order that the Head of the universe may be also Head of the Church, thus making the universe an ally of the Church.
Ephesians 1:23. Two important relations of the Church to Christ.
Which is, or, more fully, inasmuch as it is: a reason why God gave Christ to the Church.
His body: as in Colossians 1:18. See note under 1 Corinthians 12:30. In Ephesians 1:20-22 we saw the mighty power of God raising Christ from the grave in which He lay dead and raising Him through the successive ranks of angels until He sits in glory at the right hand of God. We now learn that the Risen and Enthroned One is God’s gift to the Church, to be its Head, i.e. to be Himself a part of the Church and occupying in it a unique and supreme place as that part which directs the whole and is essential to the vitality of the whole. In other words, He who is above everything created is in closest union with the Church.
The fulness etc.: farther description of the Church. It is the body of Christ, an outward and visible form consisting of various and variously endowed members all animated by the one Spirit of Christ, of which body He is Himself the Head, the supreme and controlling member.
It is also His fulness: see under Colossians 1:19.
Him who fills all things with all things: Christ, who gives to the universe in its various parts the fulness with which every part is full.
Fills, or more accurately fills for Himself or from Himself: Christ being enriched by the fulness with which He makes the universe fall. This keeps before us the similar relation of Christ to the universe and to the Church. In what sense are these words true? The Church can hardly be the fulness with which Christ is Himself full as in the ordinary use and construction of the word. Rather it is that which Christ makes full; according to a less common classic use in which a fully manned ship is sometimes called a fulness, as though in its full equipment the idea of a ship found its full realisation. He who fills the universe and by its abundant contents reveals Himself as one who fills all things with all things, fills also the Church, making it a receptacle of every blessing which proceeds from Him. Somewhat similar is the common use of the same word by the Gnostics, as quoted frequently by Irenæus, in a local sense to describe the abode of blessedness, which they called the fulness in contrast to the void or abode of darkness. Also closely akin to the word before us is the verb in Colossians 2:10, ‘in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are made-full in Him.’ He who has so joined to Himself the Church as to make it His body, the visible organ of His self-manifestation, and Himself its Head, has also made it His fulness, the receptacle and embodiment of His own abundance, of the infinite blessings He is able to bestow.
REVIEW. That his readers have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and that He is an earnest of the inheritance awaiting them, moves Paul, on hearing of their faith in Christ and their faithfulness towards all Christians, to give ceaseless thanks on their behalf in his approaches to God in prayer. His thanks pass imperceptibly into prayer that God would give to them that Spirit who is the Bearer of the wisdom of God and the Agent of His revelations to men, this gift assuming the form of imparted knowledge of God, in order that they, receiving light where the heart sees things unseen, may know what blessings await those who have heard and obeyed the Gospel summons, how abundant is the splendour of the inheritance which already belongs to the saints, and how surpassingly mighty is the power which is already at work upon them and will ultimately realise their hopes. Paul gives them a measure by which they may estimate the greatness of this power, viz. the power which raised Christ from the dead to the throne of God, far beyond the shining ranks of heaven and beyond whatever dignity is known in the age now passing or will be known in the ages to come. The exaltation of Christ rivets the Apostle’s wondering gaze. He remembers that not only is Christ raised above all angelic powers, but that all things good and bad, personal and impersonal, are put under His control; that the humanity of Christ, itself a part of the created universe, holds in it a place of unique dignity as the supreme part which controls all else; that this supreme Ruler of the universe has been given to the Church to be a part of it, viz. the one supreme and controlling member without which the others cannot live; and that the Church is both His body, the visible organ of His self-manifestation, and His fulness, the receptacle of the effulgence and wealth which ever flow from Him.
Notice carefully that, in consequence of the close relation between Christ and His peoples the splendour given to Him and the power which rescued Him from death and gave Him that splendour are a measure of the splendour awaiting His people; and that the power which raised Christ is already at work in those who believe, and will ultimately raise them to the throne of their Risen Lord. A similar argument in Philippians 3:21. This exaltation above even the highest created beings assures us that no created power will prevent or lessen the glory awaiting us. Notice also the appropriateness here of Paul’s favourite metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ. If we are members of His body, where the Head is we must some day be. Therefore, since the Head cannot descend, the exaltation of Christ is a pledge that we shall reign with Him. The Church is also the self-development of Him who fills the universe with His own life; as though apart from the Church our conception of Christ would be incomplete.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
Search This Commentary