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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Ephesians 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Eph . To the saints.—Dismiss the commonly accepted meaning. Not men who by hard and rigorous methods have reached the heights where but few abide, but those who, as the elect of God, are separated from everything unholy and kept for God's peculiar possession (1Pe 2:9). And faithful.—Sometimes the word may mean "believers," sometimes "trust-worthy." "The use of the adjective for the Christian brotherhood cannot be assigned rigidly either to the one meaning or the other. Its very comprehensiveness was in itself a valuable lesson" (Lightfoot).

Eph . Grace … and peace.—The light-hearted Greek salutation was, "Rejoice"; the more sober Hebrew—our Lord's own—was, "Peace be to you." Here both unite.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Eph

Apostolic Salutation.

I. He declares the divine source of his authority.—"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God" (Eph ). The faithful ambassador scans his commission with the utmost care, and is solicitous to clearly understand the will of his Sovereign. If he examines his own fitness for the office, it is only to be humbled under a sense of unworthiness, and to express surprise that he should be chosen to such a dignity and be entrusted with such powers. His supreme ambition is to sink his own personal predilections in the earnest discharge of his duty. Paul does not dilate on his own mental capabilities or spiritual endowments. He accepts his appointment to the apostleship as coming directly from the hand of God, and recognises the divine will as the source of righteousness and of all power to do good. This lofty conception of his call gave him unfaltering confidence in the truth he had to declare, inspired him with an ever-glowing zeal, rendered him immovable in the midst of defection and opposition, and willing to obliterate himself, so that the gospel committed to him might be triumphant. The true minister, in the onerous task of dealing with human doubt and sin, feels the need of all the strength and prestige conferred by the conscious possession of divine authority. He seeks not to advance his own interests or impose his own theories, but to interpret the mind of God to man and persuade to submission and obedience. The power that makes for righteousness has its root in the divine will.

II. He designates the sacred character of those he salutes.—"To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph ). The Ephesian saints were made so by their faith in Christ Jesus. They were not saints because Paul called them so. Sanctity is not the result of human volition, nor can it be created by a college of cardinals. "Many saints have been canonised who ought to have been cannonaded." Sanctity is the gift of God, and is bestowed on those who believe in Christ Jesus and maintain their allegiance by continued faith in him. They are holy so long as they are faithful. The saints of God! "Think," says Farrar, "of the long line of heroes of faith in the olden times: of the patriarchs—Enoch the blameless, Noah the faithful, Abraham the friend of God; of the sweet and meditative Isaac, the afflicted and wrestling Jacob; of Moses, the meekest of men; of brave judges, glorious prophets, patriotic warriors, toiling apostles; of the many martyrs who would rather die than lie; of the hermits who fled from the guilt and turmoil of life into the solitude of the wilderness; of the missionaries—St. Paul, Columban, Benedict, Boniface, Francis Xavier, Schwartz, Eliot, Henry Martyn, Coleridge, Patteson; of the reformers who cleared the world of lies, like Savonarola, Huss, Luther, Zwingli, Wesley, Whitefield; of wise rulers, like Alfred, Louis, Washington, and Garfield; of the writers of holy books, like Thomas-à-Kempis, Baxter, Bunyan, Samuel Rutherford, Jeremy Taylor; of the slayers of monstrous abuses, like Howard and Wilberforce; of good bishops, like Hugo of Avalon, Fénélon, and Berkeley; of good pastors, like Oberlin, Fletcher of Madeley, Adolphe Monod, and Felix Neff; of all true poets, whether sweet and holy, like George Herbert, Cowper, Keble, and Longfellow, or grand and mighty, like Dante and Milton. These are but few of the many who have reflected the glory of their Master Christ, and who walk with Him in white robes, for they are worthy."

III. He supplicates the bestowal of the highest blessings.—"Grace be to you, and peace" (Eph ). Grace and peace have a divine source. Grace is the rich outflow of God's goodness, made available for man through the redeeming work of Christ. There is sometimes the thought that grace implies God's passing by sin. But no, quite the contrary; grace supposes sin to be so horribly bad a thing that God cannot tolerate it. Were it in the power of man, after being unrighteous and evil, to patch up his ways and mend himself so as to stand before God, there would then be no need of grace. The very fact of the Lord's being gracious shows sin to be so evil a thing that man, being a sinner, is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace can meet his case. This grace God is continually supplying. Grace, like manna, will rot if kept overnight. "Wind up thy soul," says George Herbert, "as thou dost thy watch at night." Leave no arrears from day to day. Give us this day's food; forgive us this day's sins. Peace is first peace with God, with whom the soul was at enmity; then peace of conscience, troubled on account of repeated sins, and peace with all men. All our best wishes for the welfare of others are included in the all-comprehensive blessings of grace and peace.

Lessons.—

1. The will of God is the highest authority for Christian service.

2. The saintly character is the outgrowth of a practical faith.

3. Grace and peace describe the rich heritage of the believer.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Eph . Paul's Introduction to the Epistle.—The design of this epistle is more fully to instruct the Ephesians in the nature of that gospel they had received, to guard them against certain errors to which they were exposed from the influence and example of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, and to inculcate upon them the importance of a conversation becoming their faith and profession. It contains the substance of the gospel.

I. Paul here calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ.—The word "apostle" signifies a messenger sent on some particular business. Jesus Christ is called an Apostle because He was sent of God to instruct and redeem mankind. Paul and others are called apostles because they were sent of Christ to teach the doctrines they had received from Him. To confirm this commission, as well as to give their ministry success, Christ, according to His promise, wrought with them and established their words with signs following.

1. Paul was an apostle by the will of God.—He received not his call or commission from man; nor was he, as Matthias was, chosen to his apostleship by men; but he was called by Jesus Christ, who in person appeared to him for this end that He might send him among the Gentiles, and by God the Father, who revealed His Son in him, and chose him that he should know His will and be a witness of the truth unto all men.

2. He was called of God by revelation.—It was not a secret revelation known only to himself, like the revelation on which enthusiasts and impostors ground their pretensions, but a revelation made in the most open and public manner, attended with a voice from heaven and a light which outshone the sun at noonday, and exhibited in the midst of a number of people to whom he could appeal as witnesses of the extraordinary scene. The great business of Paul and the other apostles was to diffuse the knowledge of the gospel and plant Churches in various parts of the world.

II. Paul directs this epistle to the saints and faithful.—The phrases denote they had been called out of the world and separated from others that they might be a peculiar people unto God. The religion we profess contains the highest motives to purity of heart and life. If, content with a verbal profession of and external compliance with this religion, we regard iniquity in our hearts, we are guilty of the vilest prevarication, and our religion, instead of saving us, will but plunge us the deeper into infamy and misery. That which is the visible ought to be the real character of Christians.

III. The apostle expresses his fervent desire that these Ephesians may receive the glorious blessings offered in the gospel.—

1. Grace. Pardon is grace, for it is the remission of a deserved punishment. Eternal life is grace, for it is a happiness of which we are utterly unworthy. The influences of the divine Spirit are grace, for they are first granted without any good disposition on our part to invite them, they are continued even after repeated oppositions, they prepare us for that world of glory for which we never should qualify ourselves.

2. Peace.—By this we understand that peace of mind which arises from a persuasion of our interest in the favour of God. Our peace with God is immediately connected with our faith in Christ. Our peace of mind is connected with our knowledge of the sincerity of our faith. "If our heart condemn us not, we have confidence toward God." The way to enjoy peace is to increase in all holy dispositions and to abound in every good work. If the apostle wished grace and peace to Christians, surely they should feel some solicitude to enjoy them.—J. Lathrop, D.D.


Verses 3-14

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Eph . Blessed be the God and Father.—The Hebrew form for "hallowing the Name" was, "The Holy One, blessed be He." The Prayer Book version of Psalm c. gives, "Speak good of His name." Who blessed us.—When old Isaac pronounces the blessing uttered on Jacob unwittingly to be irreversible, he depends on God for the carrying out of his dying blessing: the divine blessing makes whilst pronouncing blest. In the heavenly places.—Lit. "in the heavenlies"—so, as A.V. margin says, either places or things. Perhaps the local signification is best; "relating to heaven, and meant to draw us thither" (Blomfield).

Eph . Even as He chose us in Him.—Whatever be the manifestation of the divine goodness, it is "in Christ" that it is made. "This sentence traces back the state of grace and Christian piety to the eternal and independent electing love of God" (Cremer). There is always the connotation of some not chosen. Before the foundation of the world.—St. Paul, like Esaias, "is very bold." His Master had only said "from," not "before," the foundation (Mat 25:34), reserving the "before" for the dim eternity in which He was the sharer, with the eternal Spirit, of the Father's love (Joh 17:24). Without blemish (R.V.), or, in one word, "immaculate." A sacrificial term generally; used by St. Peter (1Pe 1:19) to describe that "Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." This word serves to guard "holy," just before it; a separated (holy) people must also be a spotless people.

Eph . Having predestinated us.—By pointing as the R.V. margin does, we get Love divine as the basis on which our foreordination rests. "There is no respect of persons with God," and no arrière pensée in the invitation, "All that labour and are heavy laden." Unto adoption as sons.—The end, as regards man. Perhaps St. John's word goes more deeply into the heart of the mystery, "That we should be called the children of God"—"born of God." Through Jesus Christ.—Mediator of this and every implied blessing. According to the good pleasure of His will.—The word for "good pleasure" characterises the will as one whose intent is something good; the unhampered working of the will lies in the expression too. The measure of human privilege in the adoption is according to the divine Graciousness.

Eph . To the praise of the glory of His grace.—The ultimate end, "that God may be all in all." Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.—The change in the R.V., considerable as it seems, turns on the rendering of one word, the meaning in the New Testament being "to bestow favour." Compare Luk 1:28 and the A.V. marginal alternative "much-graced." Chrysostom's beautiful interpretation must not be lightly rejected, "to make love-worthy"—just as if one were to make a sick or famished man into a beautiful youth, so has God made our soul beautiful and love-worthy for the angels and all saints and for Himself.

Eph . In whom we have redemption.—Release in consideration of a ransom paid—"deliverance effected through the death of Christ from the retributive wrath of a holy God and the merited penalty of sin" (Grimm). Through His blood.—St. Paul quite agrees with the author of Hebrews (Heb 9:22) that, apart from the pouring out of blood, the putting away of sin cannot be brought about. The forgiveness of our trespasses.—Another way of stating in what the redemption consists. Notice the "forgiveness" as compared with the "passing over" (Rom 3:25, R.V.). The one is the remission of punishment; the other the omission to punish sin that has been observed, "leaving it open in the future either entirely to remit or else adequately to punish them as may seem good to Him" (Trench).

Eph . In all wisdom and prudence.—"Wisdom embraces the collective activity of the mind as directed to divine aims to be achieved by moral means. Prudence is the insight of practical reason regulating the dispositions" (Meyer).

Eph . The mystery of His will.—"Mystery" is here to be taken not so much as a thing which baffles the intellect as the slow utterance of a long-kept secret, which "the fulness of time" brings to birth.

Eph . The fulness of times.—The word for "times" denotes "time as brings forth its several births." It is the "flood" in the "tide of affairs." To sum up all things.—"To bring together again for Himself all things and all beings (hitherto disunited by sin) into one combined state of fellowship in Christ, the universal bond" (Grimm). "It is the mystery of God's will to gather all together for Himself in Christ, to bring all to a unity, to put an end to the world's discord wrought by sin, and to re-establish the original state of mutual dependence in fellowship with God" (Cremer). The things which are in heaven and which are on earth.

"The blood that did for us atone

Conferred on them some gift unknown."

Eph . In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.—R.V. "were made a heritage." "The Lord's portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance," sang dying Moses. The verbal paradox between A.V. and R.V. is reconciled in fact. "All are yours, and ye are Christ's" (1Co 3:22-23). "Before the Parousia an ideal possession, thereafter a real one" (Meyer). After the counsel of His own will.—"The ‘counsel' preceding the resolve, the ‘will' urging on to action" (Cremer).

Eph . That we should be to the praise.—R.V. "to the end that we should be." "Causa finalis of the predestination to the Messianic lot" (Meyer). "We" in antithesis to "you" in Eph 1:13—We Jewish—you Gentile Christians.

Eph . In whom ye also, etc.—The word "trusted," supplied by A.V., is dropped by R.V. It seems best to regard the words after "ye also" as one of the frequent breaks in the flow of the apostle's language, the second "ye" taking up the first. "In whom ye were sealed." "The order of conversion was: hearing, faith, baptism, reception of the Spirit" (Meyer). Ye were sealed.—"This sealing is the indubitable guarantee of the future Messianic salvation received in one's own consciousness" (Meyer).

Eph . Who is the earnest.—The guarantee. The word represented by "earnest" was derived from the Phœnician merchants, and meant money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will be subsequently paid (Grimm). The word is found in the Hebrew of Gen 38:17-18, and means "pledge." F. W. Robertson makes a distinction between "pledge" and "earnest"—the grapes of Eshcol were an "earnest" of Canaan. He who receives the Holy Spirit partakes the powers of the age to come (Heb 6:4-5). Until the redemption.—The final consummation of the redemption effected by the atonement of Christ. The "until" is faulty, the "earnest" being "something towards" the redemption. Of the purchased possession.—R.V. "of God's own possession." "The whole body of Christians, the true people of God acquired by God as His property by means of the redeeming work of Christ" (Meyer).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Eph

Praise for the Work of the Trinity in the Gospel of Grace.

These verses are an outburst of descriptive eloquence that even the ample resources of the Greek language seem too meagre to adequately express. The grandeur and variety of ideas, and the necessary vagueness of the phrases by which those ideas are conveyed in this paragraph, create a difficulty in putting the subject into a practical homiletic form. It may help us if we regard the passage as an outpouring of praise for the work of the Trinity in the gospel of grace, the part of each person in the Trinity being distinctly recognised as contributing to the unity of the whole.

I. The gospel of grace originated in the love of the Father.—

1. He hath chosen us to holiness. "Blessed be the God and Father … who hath chosen us … that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Eph ). The love of God the Father gave Christ to the world, and in Him the human race is dowered with "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places." The blessings from heaven link us to heaven, and will by-and-by bring us to heaven, where those blessings will be enjoyed in unrestricted fulness. Before time began, in the free play of His infinite love, God the Father, foreseeing the sin and misery that would come to pass, resolved to save man, and to save him in His own way and for His own purpose. Man was to be saved in Christ, and by believingly receiving Christ; and his salvation was not to free him from moral obligation, but to plant in Him principles of holiness by which he could live a blameless life before God. He chose us for Himself that we might love Him, and find our satisfaction in the perpetual discovery of His great love to us. The true progression of the Christian life is a growth of the ever-widening knowledge of the love of God. Love is the essence and the crown of holiness.

2. He hath ordained us to sonship.—"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus Himself" (Eph ). The sonship is not by natural right of inheritance, but by adoption. It is an act of divine grace, undeserved and unexpected. It is said that, after the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon adopted the children of the soldiers who had fallen. They were supported and educated by the State, and, as belonging to the family of the emperor, were allowed to attach the name of Napoleon to their own. This was not the adoption of love, but as a recognition of service rendered by their fathers. None can adopt into the family of God but God Himself, and it is an act on His part of pure, unmerited love. He raises us to the highest dignity, and endows us with unspeakable privileges, when He makes us His children; and our lives should be in harmony with so distinguished a relationship.

3. He hath accepted us in Christ.—"Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph ). Christ, the beloved One, is the special object of the Father's love, and all who are united to Christ by faith become sharers in the love with which the divine Father regards His Son. It is only in and through Christ that we are admitted into the divine family. God loves us in Christ, and the more so because we love Christ. We are accepted to a life of holiness and a service of love. Christ is the pattern of our sonship and the means of our adoption. The love of God to the race finds an outlet through the person and gracious intervention of His Son.

II. The gospel of grace was wrought out by the sufferings of the Son.—

1. In Him we have forgiveness of sins. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Eph ). How little do we realise the greatness and blessedness of the pardon of sin! It may seem difficult to explain how the forgiveness of sins is connected with the sufferings and death of Christ; but there is no fact in the New Testament writings more clearly revealed or more emphatically repeated than this. "The death of Christ was an act of submission on behalf of mankind to the justice of the penalties of violating the eternal law of righteousness—an act in which our own submission not only received a transcendent expression, but was really and vitally included; it was an act which secured the destruction of sin in all who, through faith, are restored to union with Christ; it was an act in which there was a revelation of the righteousness of God which must otherwise have been revealed in the infliction of the penalty of sin on the human race. Instead of inflicting suffering God has elected to endure it, that those who repent of sin may receive forgiveness, and may inherit eternal glory. It was greater to endure suffering than to inflict it" (Dale). The forgiveness is free, full, and complete.

2. In Him we have the revelation of the mystery of the divine will.—"Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known to us the mystery of His will" (Eph ). The will of God is to advance the ultimate glorious destiny of the whole creation. This sublime purpose was for ages an unrevealed mystery, unknown to the prophets, psalmists, and saints of earlier times. In the depths of the divine counsels this purpose was to be carried out by Christ, and it is revealed only through and in Him. The believer in Christ discovers in Him, not only his own blessedness, but also the ultimate glory of all who are savingly united to the great Redeemer. The abounding grace of God bestows wisdom to apprehend a larger knowledge of the ways and will of God, and prudence to practically apply that knowledge in the conduct of life.

3. In Him we enjoy the unity and grandeur of the heavenly inheritance.—"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, … in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, … that we should be to the praise of His glory" (Eph ). The fulness of times must refer to the gospel age and the glorious ages to follow, in which the accomplishment of the divine purpose will become more apparent. That purpose is to heal up the estrangement of man from God, and to restore moral harmony to the universe, which has been disordered by the introduction of sin. The great agent in the unifying and harmonising of all things is Christ, who is the centre and circumference of all. The angels who never sinned, and the saints who are made such by redeeming mercy, will share together the inheritance of bliss provided by the suffering and triumphant Christ. "Our final glory will consist, not in the restoration of the solitary soul to solitary communion with God, but in the fellowship of all the blessed with the blessedness of the universe as well as with the blessedness of God."

III. The gospel of grace is confirmed and realised by the operation of the Holy Spirit.—

1. By Him we hear and understand the word of truth. "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph ). The gospel is emphatically the word of truth; it is reliable history, not romance—a revelation of truths essential to salvation. It is the function of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind by the instrumentality of the truth, to apply the word to the conscience, and to regenerate the heart. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us, and the vision leads on to a spiritual transformation.

2. By Him we are sealed as an earnest of possessing the full inheritance of blessing.—"Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance" (Eph ). The work of the Spirit broke down all class distinctions. The Jewish Christians discovered that the exclusive privileges of their race had passed away. All believers in Christ Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, received the assurance of the Spirit that all the prerogatives and blessings of God's eternal kingdom were theirs. The seal of the Spirit is the divine attestation to the believing soul of its admission into the favour of God, and the guarantee of ultimately entering into the full possession and enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance.

Lessons.—

1. The gospel of grace is the harmonious work of the blessed Trinity.

2. The grace of the gospel is realised by faith.

3. Praise for the gift of the gospel should be continually offered to the Triune God.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Eph . The Doctrine of Predestination.—Neither Calvinism nor Arminianism has solved the problem presented in this chapter. Like difficulties meet us in God's providential dealings—ay, in the workings of His natural laws; for, as a brilliant author has said, "Nature is a terrible Calvinist."—Lange.

Election.—It is above logic and philosophy and even technical theology, even as on many, and these, the most important subjects, the heart is a better teacher than the head. In these matters I am so fearful that I dare not speak further—yea, almost none otherwise than the text does, as it were, lead me by the hand.—Ridley.

Mystery of election.—Those who are willing are always the elect; those who will not are not elected. Many men are wrapped up in the doctrines of election and predestination; but that is the height of impertinence. They are truths belonging to God alone; and if you are perplexed by them, it is only because you trouble yourself about things which do not concern you. You only need to know that God sustains you with all His might in the winning of your salvation, if you will only rightly use His help. Whoever doubts this is like a crew of a boat working with all their might against the tide and yet going back hour after hour; then they notice that the tide turns, while at the same time the wind springs up and fills their sails. The coxswain cries, "Pull away, boys! wind and tide favour you!" But they answer, "What can we do with the oars? don't the wind and tide take away our free agency?"—H. W. Beecher.

Eph . Spiritual Blessings.

I. They are accommodated to our spiritual wants and desires, they come down from heaven, prepare us for heaven, and will be completed in our admission to heaven.—The influences of the Spirit are heavenly gifts, the renovation of the heart by a divine operation is wisdom from above, the renewed Christian is born from above and becomes a spiritual man, the state of immortality Christ has purchased for believers is an inheritance reserved for them in heaven, in the resurrection they will be clothed with a house from heaven, with spiritual and heavenly bodies, and they will sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

II. The blessings granted to the Ephesians are tendered to us.—He offers us the honours and felicities of adoption and the remission of all our sins through the atonement of His Son. He has proposed for our acceptance an inheritance incorruptible in the heavens. We have happier advantages to become acquainted with the doctrines and precepts of the gospel than the primitive Christians could enjoy. If they were bound to give thanks for their privileges, how criminal must be ingratitude under ours! We must one day answer before God for all the spiritual blessings He has sent us.—Lathrop.

Eph . The Nature, Source, and Purpose of Spiritual Blessings.

I. God chose and predestinated these Ephesian Christians before the foundation of the world.—We must not so conceive of God's election and the influence of His grace as to set aside our free agency and final accountableness; nor must we so explain away God's sovereignty and grace as to exalt man to a state of independence. Now, so far as the grace of God in the salvation of sinners is absolute and unconditional, election or predestination is so, and no farther. If we consider election as it respects the final bestowment of salvation, it is plainly conditional. To imagine that God chooses some to eternal life without regard to their faith and holiness is to suppose that some are saved without these qualifications or saved contrary to His purpose. God hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

II. Consider the spiritual qualifications to which the Ephesians were chosen.—"To be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Eph ). Holiness consists in the conformity of the soul to the divine nature and will, and is opposed to all moral evil. Love is a most essential part of the character of the saint. Charity out of a pure heart is the end of the commandment. Without charity all our pretensions to gospel holiness are vain.

III. Consider the adoption to which believers are predestinated (Eph ).—Our sonship is not our native right, but the effect of God's gracious adoption.

1. It implies a state of freedom in opposition to bondage. Believers are free as being delivered from the bondage of sin, and as having near access to God and intimate communion with Him. Children are usually admitted to that familiar intercourse which is denied to servants.

2. Adoption brings us under the peculiar care of God's providence.

3. Includes a title to a glorious resurrection from the dead and to an eternal inheritance in the heavens. If believers are the children of God, then their temper must be a childlike temper, a temper corresponding to their relation, condition, and character.

IV. That all spiritual blessings are derived to us through Christ (Eph ).

V. The reason of God's choosing believers in Christ and predestinating them to adoption is the good pleasure of His will (Eph ).—If we admit we are sinful, fallen creatures, unworthy of God's favour and insufficient for our own redemption, then our salvation must ultimately be resolved into God's good pleasure. There is no other source from which it can be derived. If death is our desert, our deliverance must be by grace.

VI. The great purpose for which God has chosen and called us is the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph ).—God has made this display of His grace that unworthy creatures might apply to Him for salvation. We are to praise the glory of God's grace by a cheerful compliance with the precepts and thankful acceptance of the blessings of the gospel, by a holy life, and by encouraging others to accept that grace. Believers will, in a more perfect manner, show forth the praise of God's glorious grace in the future world.—Lathrop.

Eph . The Glory of Divine Grace—

I. Is the sublime outcome of the divine will.—"According to His will" (Eph ).

II. Is a signal display of joyous benevolence.—"According to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph ).

III. Demands profound and grateful recognition.—"To the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph ).

Eph . The Adoption of Children by Jesus Christ.—Explain the nature of the privilege.

I. Its greatness.—

1. From the Being by whom it is conferred.

2. From the price at which it was procured.

3. From the inheritance which it conveys.

4. From the manner in which it is bestowed. The new birth.

II. Its benefits.—

1. The spirit of adoption.

2. Divine care and protection.

3. Divine pity and compassion.

4. Overruling all trials for spiritual good.

III. The evidences of its possession.—

1. The image of God.

2. The love of God.

3. The love of the brethren.

IV. Its appropriate duties.—The children of God ought—

1. To walk worthy of their high vocation.

2. To be subject to their Father's will both in doing and in suffering.

3. To be mindful of what they owe to their spiritual kindred.

4. To long for their heavenly home.—G. Brooks.

Eph . The Adopting Love of God.

I. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Beloved of the Father.—From eternity during the preparatory dispensation in the days of His flesh; now; for ever. An ineffable love.

II. The Father's love of believers is on account of the Lord Jesus Christ.—He accepts them for the sake of Christ as united to Christ. Acceptance distinct from pardon.

III. The Father's acceptance of believers is an act of sovereign grace.—Irrespective of their merit. Neither the necessity of the atonement nor the obligation of faith is inconsistent with acceptance by grace.

IV. The Father's acceptance of believers for the sake of Christ promotes His own glory.—His glory is the end of all things. Implore all to seek acceptance with God through Christ.—G. Brooks.

Eph . Redemption through Christ.

I. The subjects of this redemption.—Redemption, though offered without distinction to all who hear the gospel, is actually bestowed only on those who repent of their sins and believe on the Saviour.

II. The nature of this redemption.—There is a twofold redemption—the redemption of the soul from the guilt of sin by pardon, and the redemption of the body from the power of the grave by the resurrection. The former of these is intended. But these two privileges are connected. The remission of sin, which is a release from our obligation to punishment, is accompanied with a title to eternal life.

III. The way and manner in which believers become partakers of this privilege.—Through the blood of Christ. The death of Christ is the ground of our hope. Jesus Christ, through whose blood we obtain forgiveness, is the Beloved. This character of Christ shows the excellence of His sacrifice and displays the grace of God in giving Him for us.

IV. Observe the foundation from which our redemption flows.—"The riches of His grace." Every blessing bestowed on sinners is by grace; but the blessing of forgiveness is according to the riches, the exceeding, the unsearchable riches of grace.

V. In this dispensation of mercy God has abounded to us in all wisdom and prudence.—The most glorious display of God's wisdom is in the work of our redemption. Here the perfections of God appear in the brightest lustre and most beautiful harmony. In this dispensation there is a door of hope opened to the most unworthy, believers have the greatest possible security, and it holds forth the most awful terrors against sin and the most powerful motives to obedience.—Lathrop.

Eph . Pardon an Act of Sovereign Grace.—This free and gracious pleasure of God or purpose of His will to act towards sinners according to His own abundant goodness is another thing that influences forgiveness. Pardon flows immediately from a sovereign act of free grace. This free purpose of God's will and grace for the pardoning of sinners is that which is principally intended when we say, "There is forgiveness with Him"; that is, He is pleased to forgive, and so to do is agreeable to His nature. Now the mystery of this grace is deep; it is eternal, and therefore incomprehensible. Few there are whose hearts are raised to a contemplation of it. Men rest and content themselves in a general notion of mercy which will not be advantageous to their souls. Freed they would be from punishment; but what it is to be forgiven they inquire not. So what they know of it they come easily by, but will find in the issue it will stand them in little stead. But these fountains of God's actings are revealed that they may be the fountains of our comforts.—John Owen.

Eph . The Harmony of Christianity in its Personal Influence.

I. The wisdom and prudence of the gospel are manifested by showing with equal distinctness the divine justice and mercy.—Justice does not arrest the hand of mercy; mercy does not restrain the hand of justice. They speak with a united voice, they command with a united authority, they shine with a united glory. Neither excels. The one does not overbear the other. Their common splendour is like the neutral tint, the effulgent colourlessness of the undecomposed ray.

II. By exhibiting the incarnate Son as alike the object of love and adoration.

III. By insisting most uniformly on divine grace and human responsibility.

IV. By the proposal of the freest terms of acceptance and the enforcement of the most universal practice of obedience.

V. By inspiring the most elevated joy in connection with the deepest self-abhorrence.

VI. By displaying the different conduct pursued by the Deity towards sin and the sinner.

VII. By combining the genuine humility of the gospel with our dignity as creatures and our conscientiousness as saints.

VIII. By causing all supernatural influence to operate through our rational powers and by intelligent means.

IX. By resting our evidence of safety and spiritual welfare upon personal virtues.

X. By supplying the absence of enslaving fear with salutary caution.

XI. The actual existence of our depraved nature and the work of sanctification in us pressing forward to its maturity tend to that regulated temperament of mind which we urge.

XII. Certain views of personal conduct are so coupled in the gospel with the noblest views of grace that any improper warping of our minds is counteracted.

XIII. While the distinctive blessings and honours of the Christian might tend to elate him, he is affected by the most opposite motives.

XIV. God abounds in this wisdom and prudence towards us by most strongly abstracting us from the things of earth and yet giving us the deepest interest in its relations and engagements.—All the truths of revelation are only parts of one system, but their effects upon the believing mind are common and interchangeable. There is no extraneous, no irreconcilable, no confusing element in Christianity. It is of One; it is one. And if we be Christians, our experience will be the counterpart of it. As it works out from apparent shocks and collisions its perfect unity, so shall our experience be wrought in the same way. In obeying from our hearts its form, whatever of its influence may seem to interfere with each other, they will all be found to establish our heart; as the opposing currents often swell the tide and more proudly waft the noble bark it carries, as the counterbalancing forces of the firmament bear the star onward in its unquivering poise and undeviating revolution.—R. W. Hamilton.

Eph . The Mystery of the Gospel.

I. The sovereign grace of God in making known to us the mystery of His will.—

1. The gospel is called the mystery of God's will, the mystery which from the beginning was hid in God, and the unsearchable riches of Christ. Not that these phrases represent the gospel as obscure and unintelligible, but that the gospel scheme was undiscoverable by the efforts and researches of human reason, and could be made known to men only by the light of divine revelation. There are many things in the gospel which are and will remain incomprehensible to human reason; but though we cannot fully comprehend them, we may sufficiently understand them.

2. God has made known to us His will "according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself."—Though the reason of His administration is not made known to us yet all His purposes are directed by consummate wisdom. He is Sovereign in the distribution of His favours; His goodness to us is no wrong to the heathen.

II. The purpose of God in making known to us the mystery of His will (Eph ).—

1. The gospel is called "the dispensation of the fulness of times." It was introduced at the time exactly ordained in the purpose, and expressly predicted in the word of God, and in this sense may be called "the dispensation of the fulness of times."

2. One end of this dispensation was that God "might gather together in one all things in Christ" (Eph ).—To form one body in Christ, to collect one Church, one great kingdom under Him.

3. The gospel is intended to unite in Christ all things both which are in heaven and which are in earth.—The Church of Christ consists of the whole family in heaven and earth. Here is a powerful argument for Christian love and for Christian candour.

III. In Him we have obtained an inheritance that we should be to the praise of His glory who first trusted in Christ.—The believing Jews were the first who trusted in Christ. They, with the believing Gentiles, were made heirs of God, not only to the privileges of His Church on earth, but to an inheritance also in the heavens. As they had first obtained an inheritance and first trusted in Christ, so they should be first to the praise of God's glory.—Lathrop.

Eph . Christ and Creation.—If the divine purpose of salvation was regulative for the creation of the world, then must salvation as well as creation be grounded on the original Mediator. But that all creation should be thus grounded in Him includes a twofold idea—that not only were all things created by Him, but also for Him, who is to bring to completion both the saving purpose of God as also the whole development of the world which tends towards the realisation of the purpose of God. And because the world has not yet reached this goal, then all things have progressively their existence in Him; and it cannot fail, because the goal of the world established in Him must be realised. But how this goal of the world is conceived of, this verse shows, when it is mentioned as the final goal of the institution of God's grace that all things may be gathered in Christ as in a centre. He has been appointed to be this central point of the universe, as the universe was created in Him; but here it is pointed out that He must again become so, because a dislocation in the original constitution of the world has taken place by sin, whose removal again the dispensation of grace must have in view. The goal of the world is no longer regarded as the perfected kingdom of God, in which the absolute, universal Lordship of God is realised, in contrast to the earthly, mediatorial Lordship of Christ, which the latter gives back to the Father, and that the exaltation of Christ is extended over everything which has a name both in this world and in the future. One cannot think of the goal of the world without Him in whom even creation has its root.—Weiss.

Eph . Christ the Inheritance of the Saints.—

1. Christ the Mediator is that person in whom believers have this heavenly inheritance, as they have all their other spiritual blessings leading to heaven in Him. Every believer hath already obtained this glorious inheritance, though not in complete personal possession.

2. As God is an absolute worker, sovereign Lord of all His actions, His will being His only rule, so His will is always joined with and founded upon the light of counsel and wisdom, and therefore He can will nothing but what is equitable and just.

3. It is no small privilege for any to be trusters in Christ before others. It is a matter of their commendation; it glorifies God in so far as their example and experience may prove an encouraging motive to others. It carries several advantages; the sooner a man closes with Christ, the work will be done more easily, he is the sooner freed from sin, the sooner capacitated to do more service to God, and his concernments are the sooner out of hazard.—Fergusson.

Eph . The Gospel of your Salvation.

I. The import of the salvation proclaimed in the gospel.—It is deliverance from all the evils that have been brought on us by the Fall.

1. From ignorance, not of science, but of God.

2. From guilt, or the penalty which the law inflicts.

3. From the power of sin, of which we are slaves.

4. From the sorrows and calamities of life, which it does not remove, but alleviate and transform.

5. From the power and fear of death.

6. From everlasting perdition.

II. The persons to whom this view of the gospel is specially applicable.—

1. To the unconverted. It teaches them what they are.

2. To the awakened. It teaches them what they need.

3. To believers. It awakens their gratitude, it reproves their lukewarmness, it stimulates their charity.

III. The reflections to which this view of the gospel gives rise.—How precious in our estimation should be—

(1) the gospel,

(2) the Saviour,

(3) the Saviour's work,

(4) the Saviour's ordinances,

(5) the Saviour's servants and people,

(6) the Saviour's second coming.—G. Brooks.

The Truth and Divinity of the Christian Religion.

I. It is reasonable to suppose that God should at some time or season fully and clearly reveal unto men the truth concerning Himself and concerning them as He and they stand related to each other, concerning His nature and will, concerning our state and duty.—Argued from

(1) His goodness,

(2) His wisdom,

(3) His justice,

(4) His divine majesty.

II. That no other revelation of that kind and importance has been made, which can with good probability pretend to have thus proceeded from God, so as by Him to have been designed for a general, perpetual, complete instruction and obligation of mankind.—

1. Paganism did not proceed from divine revelation, but from human invention or diabolical suggestion. All the pagan religions vanished, together with the countenance of secular authority and power sustaining them.

2. Mohammedanism an imposture.

3. Judaism was defective.

(1) This revelation was not general—not directed, nor intended to instruct and oblige mankind.

(2) As this revelation was particular, so was it also partial—as God did not by it speak His mind to all, so did He not therein speak out all His mind.

(3) It was not designed for perpetual obligation and use.

Conclusion.—No other religion, except Christianity, which has been or is in being, can reasonably pretend to have proceeded from God as a universal, complete, and final declaration of His mind and will to mankind.—Barrow.

Eph . The Assurance of the Christian Inheritance.—By the first act of faith the whole tendencies of man's life are reversed. Until then the present has been his world and the earth his place of rest; then, by the inspiration of the cross, a spiritual world dawns upon his view, that everlasting region becomes his home, and life assumes the character of a pilgrimage. We need to have the deep assurance of the immortal kingdom in order to live an earnest life in a world like this.

I. The nature of the assurance.—The voices of promises in the Christian's soul—the longings, aspirations, hopes, rising from the Spirit of God within us—are more than promises; they are earnests, i.e. most certain assurances of the inheritance to come. This inheritance of spiritual life consists of three great elements—love, power, blessedness.

II. The necessity of the assurance.—The inheritance is given, but not reached. Between the gift and its attainment there lies a long path of conflict in which the old struggle between the flesh and the Spirit reveals itself in three forms:

1. Sense against the soul;

2. The present against the future;

3. Steadfast work against the roving propensities of the heart.—E. L. Hull.

The Holy Spirit and the Earnest of the Inheritance.

I. The character of the inheritance.—The teaching of the passage is that heaven is likest the selectest moments of devotion that a Christian has on earth. Heaven is the perfecting of the life of the Spirit begun here, and the loftiest attainments of that life here are but the beginnings and infantile movements of immature beings.

II. The grounds of certainty that we shall ultimately possess the fulness of the inheritance.—The true ground of certainty lies in this, that you have the Spirit in your heart, operating His own likeness and moulding you, sealing you, after His own stamp and image.

1. The very fact of such a relation between man and God is itself the great assurance of immortality and everlasting life.

2. The characteristics that are produced by this Holy Spirit's indwelling, both in the perfectness and imperfection, are the great guarantee of the inheritance being ours.

3. The Holy Spirit in a man's heart makes him desire and believe in the inheritance.—A. Maclaren.

The Faith of the Early Christians.

I. The object of their faith.—The word of truth and the gospel of salvation. It is the word of truth. It contains all that truth which concerns our present duty and our future glory. It comes attended with demonstrations of its own divinity. It is the gospel of our salvation. It discovers to us our ruined, helpless condition, the mercy of God to give us salvation, the way in which it is procured for us, the terms on which we may become interested in it, the evidences by which our title to it must be ascertained, and the glory and happiness it comprehends.

II. The forwardness and yet the reasonableness of their faith.—They trusted in Christ after they heard the word. They acted as honest and rational men: they did not trust before they heard it, nor refused to trust after they heard it. They did not take the gospel on the credit of other men without examination; nor did they reject it when they had an opportunity to examine it for themselves. Their faith stood not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

III. The happy consequence of their faith.—They were "sealed with the Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." They became partakers of such a divine influence as sanctified them to a meetness for heaven, and thus evidenced their title to it.

1. The sealing of the Spirit.—Sealing literally signifies the impression of the image or likeness of one thing upon another. A seal impressed on wax leaves there its own image. Instruction is said to be sealed when it is so impressed on the heart as to have an abiding influence. So the sealing of believers is their receiving on their hearts the divine image and character by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. The word of truth is here considered as the seal, the believing heart as the subject, the Holy Spirit as the agent or sealer, and the effect produced as a divine likeness. By a like metaphor Christians are represented as cast in the mould of the gospel. The same idea is conveyed by the metaphor of writing the word on the heart.

2. The earnest of the Spirit.—The Spirit, having sealed believers or sanctified them after God's image, becomes an earnest of their inheritance. The firstfruits were pledges of the ensuing harvest; earnest-money in a contract is a pledge of the fulfilment of it. So the graces and comforts of religion are to Christians the anticipations and foretastes of the happiness which awaits them in heaven.

(1) The virtues of the Christian temper, which are the fruits of the Spirit, are to believers an earnest of their inheritance because they are in part a fulfilment of the promise which conveys the inheritance.

(2) They are an earnest as they are preparatives for it.

(3) The sealing and sanctifying influence of the Spirit is especially called an earnest of the inheritance because it is a part of the inheritance given beforehand. It is the earnest till the redemption of the purchased possession. When we actually possess the inheritance the earnest will be no longer needed.

Lessons.—

1. All the operations of the Spirit on the minds of men are of a holy nature and tendency.

2. We are strongly encouraged to apply to God for the needful influences of His grace.

3. We can have no conclusive evidence of a title to heaven without the experience of a holy temper.

4. Christians are under indispensable obligations to universal holiness.—Lathrop.


Verses 15-18

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Eph .—St. Paul is always ready to give a prompt acknowledgment of all that is best in his readers and to pray for something better. Cease not to give thanks.—My thanksgiving knows no end.

Eph . That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.—The connection or unity of the Father and the Son is the basis of the plea for those who are in the Son. Christ said, "I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God" (Joh 20:17). The Father of glory.—Compare the phrases, "the Father of mercies" (2Co 1:3), "the Father of lights" (Jas 1:17), "our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory" (Jas 2:1). The spirit of wisdom and revelation.—The wisdom which is from above is the heritage of all the redeemed in Christ (1Jn 4:20); but this day-spring, which gladdens the eyes of the heart, grows to mid-day splendour by successive apocalypses. In the knowledge.—The word means a complete knowledge. It is a word characteristic of the four epistles of the first Roman captivity.

Eph . The eyes of your understanding being enlightened … to us-ward who believe.—Three pictures for heaven-illumined eyes:

1. The hope of His calling.—Meyer says "the hope" is not here (nor anywhere) the res sperata, "the object on which hope fastens, but the great and glorious hope which God gives"—a statement too sweeping for other scholars, though here they agree that it is the faculty of hope "which encourages and animates."

2. The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.—"What a copious and grand accumulation, mirroring, as it were, the weightiness of the thing itself!" (Meyer). "Riches of the glory" must not be watered down into "glorious riches."

3. The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward.—The amazing and wholly unexpected working of the same Hand that wrought our first deliverance: the Power that smites the oppressor with dismay opens the path through the sea (see Isa ). According to the working of His mighty power.—This may be regarded as a specimen of the divine power, the norm or standard by which we may gain an idea of the "exceeding greatness" of it—that from the tomb of His humiliation Christ was raised by that power to an unrivalled dignity in God's throne. The R.V. gives "working of the strength of His might": "working"—"the active exertion of power" (Meyer); "strength"—might expressing itself in overcoming resistance, ruling, etc.; "might"—strength in itself as inward power.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Eph

Prayer for Higher Spiritual Knowledge—

I. Thankfully acknowledges the grace already possessed (Eph ).—The possession of some grace prompts the prayer for more. The apostle recognises the faith of the Ephesians in the person and work of Christ and the love they displayed towards the saints. Knowing the source of that grace and that the supply was unlimited, he thanks God and is encouraged to pray for its increase. How slow we are to see the good in others and to thank God for any good found in ourselves! Ingratitude dulls our sensibilities and chills the breath of prayer. If we were more thankful, we should be more prayerful. The way to excite gratitude is to interest ourselves in the highest welfare of others.

II. Invokes the impartation of additional spiritual insight (Eph ).—The apostle prays, not for temporal good or for prosperity in outward things, or even for the cessation of trouble and persecution, but for an accession of mental and spiritual blessings. He prays for the opening of the eye of the mind that the vision of spiritual realities may be more clear and reliable, and that the soul may be possessed with a fuller knowledge of Christ. The highest wisdom is gained by a more accurate conception of Him "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Sin enters the heart through the avenue of the senses and passions, grace through a spiritually enlightened understanding. Pride, prejudice, and error are expelled from the mind not so much by the repression of evil tendencies as by the entrance and maintenance of superior moral truths. The revelation of the Spirit in the word will not suffice, unless the light of the same Spirit shines through every faculty and power of the inquiring soul. "Man's knowledge is not perfect within the domain of creation, still less can he know the things of the invisible world. Only by living in a sphere does he gather knowledge of what is found there: knowledge comes from experience of occurrences. Without a disposition of the heart the sense of the understanding is not enlarged and sharpened. Sensible, mental, spiritual knowledge refers to life spheres in which he who knows must move. Only the believing, loving, longing one knows and grows in knowledge unto knowledge." We need, therefore, continually to pray for the Spirit of wisdom—a keener spiritual insight.

III. Unveils the grandeur of the divine inheritance in believers.—"That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph ). The increase of spiritual knowledge is an ever-widening revelation of the value and splendour of divine blessings already possessed and in prospect of possession. Faith enjoys the inheritance now, and hope anticipates an ampler revelation and richer experience of its unspeakable blessedness. The phrase "the riches of the glory of His inheritance" indicates how utterly inadequate human language is to describe its boundless spiritual wealth. It is an inheritance implying union to Him who only hath immortality and is eternal. Rust cannot corrupt it, nor decay consume, nor death destroy. We have not only an inheritance in Christ, but He has also an inheritance in us. He finds more in us than we find ourselves, and we should never know it was there but for the revelation of Himself within us.

Lessons.—

1. Prayer and thanksgiving go together.

2. The soul needs a daily revelation of truth.

3. The highest spiritual truths are made known to the soul that prays.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Eph . Clearer Discernment in Divine Things desired.

I. The things for which the apostle commends the Ephesians.—Their faith in Jesus and love to the saints (Eph ).

1. Faith is such a sensible, realising belief of the gospel in its general truth and in its particular doctrines and precepts as gives it a practical influence on the heart and life; it looks up to God through Christ; it is made perfect by works.

2. Faith is accompanied with love. Viewing and applying the examples and doctrines of the gospel, it purifies the soul unto unfeigned love of the brethren. The gospel requires us to love all men, sinners as well as saints, enemies as well as friends. If we love God for His moral perfections, we shall love the saints as far as they appear to have these divine qualities wrought into their temper. Our love is not to be confined to a party, to those who live in the same city and worship in the same sanctuary, but embraces all.

II. Paul expresses his great thankfulness to God for the success of the gospel.—"I cease not to give thanks" (Eph ). He rejoiced in the honour which redounded to the crucified Jesus. He rejoiced to think how many were rescued from the power of Satan, and in the consequences which might ensue to others. If the prevalence of religion is matter of thankfulness, we should spare no pains to give it success.

III. He prays for the future success of the gospel (Eph ).—The best Christians have need to make continual improvement. Paul was no less constant in his prayers than in his labours for the spiritual interest of mankind. He knew that the success of all his labours depended on God's blessing; he therefore added to them his fervent prayers. When ministers and people strive together in their prayers, there is reason to hope for God's blessing on both.

IV. He prayed for spiritual enlightenment (Eph ).—That they may seek wisdom from God to understand the revelation He has given, and such an illumination of mind as to discern the nature and excellence of the things contained in this revelation. Christians must not content themselves with their present knowledge, but aspire to all riches of the full assurance of understanding.

V. He prayed for power to appreciate Christian privileges (Eph ).—To know the hope of the divine calling, the possibility and assurance of attaining the heavenly kingdom. To know what a rich and glorious inheritance God has prepared for and promised to the saints. Though we cannot comprehend its dimensions nor compute its value, yet when we consider the grace of the Being who conveys it, the riches of the price which brought it, and the divine preparation by which the heirs are formed to enjoy it, we must conceive it to be unspeakably glorious.—Lathrop.

The Apprehension of Spiritual Blessings.

I. Further spiritual blessings are to be apprehended by the saints, therefore their condition is a relative one.—The Ephesians had already received spiritual blessings (Eph ). How much more is here. The possessed bears some proportion to what is to be received. Without this relative view the estimate is vague and erroneous. The further gifts consist specially in the clearer sight and the more certain and enlarged experience of what they already saw and possessed. "Him," "His calling," "His inheritance," "His mighty power"—these were to be theirs in a degree of exceeding greatness and glory.

II. Unless saints apprehend blessings now attainable, they live below their privilege.—"If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldest have asked of Him." Without some knowledge there is neither faith nor desire. With these unveilings the heart is deeply moved with the sense of obligation to possess, it is attracted and filled with desire and animation. Otherwise, with an ignorant satisfaction, the condition must remain relatively lean and impoverished.

III. The spiritual apprehension of these blessings is the gift of God.—This is needed because of their divine nature. As we cannot properly see what the sun has called into life and beauty without his light, so these blessings are truly seen only in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. Through the Redeemer the Spirit is given. He gives the Spirit to enlighten both the object and the eye, to "testify," to "show," to "glorify," to reveal, "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Thus these blessings are seen, not distantly and dimly, but in their nearness and unveiled glory, whilst He creates in the heart corresponding sympathy, desire, and assurance. Nothing can compensate for this gift—no mere intelligence, no reflection upon past experience, no mere help from others.

IV. This gift is bestowed in answer to prayer.—This particular bestowment comes under the promise of the Spirit to believing prayer. This is a gift. Gifts are asked for, not made ours in any other way. This gift is awaiting and challenging prayer, importunate prayer. That an ever-deepening desire for these spiritual gifts may be ours, let us often ask—What truths are given to me, which, if the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, would now exert the most positive influence over me, lifting me into the clearer light of God's relations, thus empowering me to live above the standard of natural strength, and so to fulfil His present designs? Think of the alternative.—J. Holmes.

Eph . True Religion self-revealing—

I. In its moral results.—"Faith and love" (Eph ).

II. Is evident to others.—"I heard of your faith" (Eph ).

III. Is the occasion of constant thanksgiving.—"Cease not to give thanks for you" (Eph ).

IV. Calls forth a spirit of prayer.—"Making mention of you in my prayers" (Eph ).

Eph . Spiritual Enlightenment.—

1. The wisdom which Christians are to seek is not that carnal wisdom which is emnity to God, nor natural wisdom or knowledge of the hidden mysteries of nature, nor the wisdom of divine mysteries, which is only a gift and floweth from a common influence of the Spirit, but that whereof the Spirit of God by His special operation and influence is author and worker, and is more than a gift, even the grace of wisdom, which is not acquired by our own industry, but cometh from above.

2. It is not sufficient for attaining this grace of wisdom that the truths be plainly revealed by the Spirit in Scripture. There must be the removal of natural darkness from our understandings that we may be enabled to take up that which is revealed, as in beholding colours by the outward sense there must be not only an outward light to make the object conspicuous, but also the faculty of seeing in the eye. A blind man cannot see at noonday, nor the sharpest-sighted at midnight.

3. Though those excellent things which are not yet possessed, but only hoped for, are known in part, yet so excellent are they in themselves, and remote from our knowledge, and so much are we taken up with trifles and childish toys, that even believers who have their thoughts most exercised about them are in a great part ignorant of them.

4. As the things hoped for and really to be enjoyed in the other life are of the nature of an inheritance not purchased by us but freely bestowed upon us, so they are properly Christ's inheritance, who has proper right to it as the natural Son of God and by virtue of His own purchase; but the right we have is communicated to us through Him, in whom we have received the adoption of children and are made heirs and coheirs with Christ.

5. It is a glorious inheritance, there being nothing there but what is glorious. The sight shall be glorious, for we shall see God as we are seen, the place glorious, the company glorious, our souls and bodies shall be glorious, and our exercise glorious, giving glory to God for ever and ever.—Fergusson.


Verses 19-23

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Eph . The eyes of your understanding being enlightened … to us-ward who believe.—Three pictures for heaven-illumined eyes:

1. The hope of His calling.—Meyer says "the hope" is not here (nor anywhere) the res sperata, "the object on which hope fastens, but the great and glorious hope which God gives"—a statement too sweeping for other scholars, though here they agree that it is the faculty of hope "which encourages and animates."

2. The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.—"What a copious and grand accumulation, mirroring, as it were, the weightiness of the thing itself!" (Meyer). "Riches of the glory" must not be watered down into "glorious riches."

3. The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward.—The amazing and wholly unexpected working of the same Hand that wrought our first deliverance: the Power that smites the oppressor with dismay opens the path through the sea (see Isa ). According to the working of His mighty power.—This may be regarded as a specimen of the divine power, the norm or standard by which we may gain an idea of the "exceeding greatness" of it—that from the tomb of His humiliation Christ was raised by that power to an unrivalled dignity in God's throne. The R.V. gives "working of the strength of His might": "working"—"the active exertion of power" (Meyer); "strength"—might expressing itself in overcoming resistance, ruling, etc.; "might"—strength in itself as inward power.

Eph . Set Him at His own right hand.—"Dexter Dei ubique est." We cannot dogmatise about the relations to space which a glorified body holds. The transcendent glory of God in that body links God to man, the humanity in the glory gives man his claim in God. "The true commentary on the phrase is Mar 16:19, ‘He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God'" (Meyer).

Eph . Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.—R.V. "Rule, and authority, and power, and dominion." "To be understood of the good angels, since the apostle is not speaking of the victory of Christ over opposing powers, but of His exaltation above the existing powers of heaven" (Meyer). "Powers and dominions, deities of heaven," as Milton calls them, ranged here, perhaps, in a descending order. And every name that is named.—"God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name." "Let any name be uttered, whatever it is, Christ is above it, is more exalted than that which the name affirms" (Meyer). Not only in this world.—"This age." "No other name under heaven given among men." But also in that which is to come.—There Zechariah's word will have its fullest application. "The Lord shall be King over all the earth; there shall be one Lord, and His name one."

Eph . And hath put all things under His feet.—Compare 1Co 15:27.

"Strong Son of God, immortal Love, …

Thou madest Death; and lo Thy foot

Is on the skull which Thou hast made."

In Memoriam.

Eph . The fulness of Him that filleth all in all.—"The Church, viz., is the Christ-filled, i.e. that which is filled by Him in so far as Christ penetrates the whole body and produces Christian life" (Meyer). "The brimmed receptacle of Him who filleth all things with all things" (Farrar). "Among the Gnostics the supersensible world is called the Pleroma, the fulness or filled, in opposition to ‘the empty,' the world of the senses" (Meyer).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Eph

The Church Complete in Christ.

I. The Church is the creation of divine power (Eph ).—The Church does not consist in massive architecture or ornate decorations, not in ecclesiastical organisations and councils. It is not the offspring of the most elaborately constructed creed. It is not confined within the limits of the most expansive ecclesiastical epithet. It is a divine, spiritual creation. It consists of souls redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus, clinging to Him for pardon, peace, and righteousness, and created in Him, by "the working of the mighty power" of the divine Spirit, for good works, and therefore continually striving to disseminate the good they have themselves received. The apostolic idea of the Church was coloured by the leading characteristic of the man. To St. Peter it was the Church as influenced by law—the confessing Church; to St. Paul it was the Church influenced by the freedom of faith—the witnessing Church; to St. John it was the Church as filled with the ideality of faith—working and keeping joyful holiday, the adorned Bride (Rev 19:7-8). The Church is a constant revelation of "the exceeding greatness of His power" who first originated it and sustains its ever-widening growth.

II. The divine power that creates the Church instals Christ as the supreme authority.—

1. This power raised Christ from the deepest humiliation to the highest dignity (Eph ). It raised Him from the cross to the throne, from the domain of the dead to the life and everlasting glory of the heavenly world. "God ascended with jubilation, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Certainly, if when He brought His only begotten Son into the world He said, ‘Let all the angels worship Him'; much more, now that He ascends on high and hath led captivity captive, hath He given Him a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus all knees should bow. And if the holy angels did so carol at His birth in the very entrance into that estate of humiliation and infirmity, with what triumph they receive Him now returning from the perfect achievement of man's redemption! And if, when His type had vanquished Goliath and carried the head into Jerusalem, the damsels came forth to meet him with dances and timbrels, how shall we think those angelic spirits triumph in meeting the great Conqueror of hell and death! How did they sing, ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in'!"

2. This power invests Christ with supreme rule and authority (Eph ). On the night when Christ was born what a difference was there in all outward marks of distinction between the child of the Hebrew mother as He lay in His lowly cradle, and the Augustus Csar, whose edict brought Mary to Bethlehem, as he reposed in his imperial palace. And throughout the lifetime of the two there was but little to lessen that distinction. The name of the one was known and honoured over the whole civilised globe, the name of the Other scarce heard of beyond the narrow bounds of Judea. How stands it now? The throne of the Csars, the throne of mere human authority and power, has perished. But the empire of Jesus, the empire of pure, undying, self-sacrificing love, will never perish; its sway over the consciences and hearts of men, as the world grows older, becomes ever wider and stronger (Hanna). The rule of Christ will last till all enemies are subdued, and obedience to Him becomes a reverential and joyous experience.

III. The Church is complete as it is endowed with the divine fulness of Christ (Eph ).—The Church to-day seems broken into fragments, torn by divisions and strife; but by-and-by it will blend in a glorious unity. Take a mass of quicksilver, let it fall on the floor, and it will split into a vast number of distinct globules; gather them up, and put them together again, and they will coalesce into one body as before. Thus God's people below are sometimes divided into various parties, though they are all in fact members of one and the same mystic body. But when taken up from the world and put together in heaven they will constitute one glorious, undivided Church for ever and ever. The completeness of the Church is not the aggregation of all the virtues of the saints blended in beauteous and harmonious unity, but the glory of the divine fulness that pervades every part.

Lessons.—

1. The Church as a divine creation is a revelation of Christ.

2. The Church is composed of those who are created anew in Christ Jesus.

3. Christ is everything to His Church.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Eph . The Dignity and Dominion of Christ.

I. The first step in Christ's exaltation was the resurrection from the dead.—This miracle is an incontestable evidence of the truth of the Christian religion, and an evidence of the great doctrine of the resurrection of the body and a future life, and of the efficacy of Christ's blood to expiate the guilt of our sins. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we must believe that the same mighty power which wrought in Him can also work in us to raise us from the dead.

II. The next step is His ascension to heaven and session at God's right hand (Eph ). The right hand is the place of honour and respect, and denotes superior dignity. Christ sitting at God's right hand signifies He has ceased from His labours and sufferings and entered into a state of repose and joy, and imports authority and power. He is exalted not only as Ruler, but also as Intercessor.

III. The exaltation of Christ is supreme.—His kingdom extends to all creatures in heaven, earth, and under the earth. The government of the natural world is in His hands, as well as the government of the Church. He has dominion over devils. His last and most glorious act is the judgment of the world.

IV. The end for which Christ exercises His high and extensive dominion (Eph ).—All His government is managed in reference to the good of the Church. See how criminal and dangerous it is to oppose the interest of the Church. If the Church is Christ's body, let us honour it, study to preserve unity in it, labour for its edification and comfort. Let us honour and reverence our Head, and never presumptuously lift up ourselves against the Church.—Lathrop.

Eph . The Power of God in Conversion.—

1. The power God exercises in converting and carrying on the work of grace to glory is not only great, but exceeds all power that might impede that work, so that there is no power in the devil, the world, sin, or death which this power does not overcome, nor any impotency in believers which this greatness of power will not help and strengthen. There is no more pregnant proof of God's omnipotent power than in converting sinners from sin to holiness.

2. This mighty power of God extends to all times. It works in the first conversion of believers, preserves them in a state of grace, actuating their graces that they may grow, and continues till their graces are perfected.

3. The experimental knowledge of God's way of working is to be carefully sought after, to make us thankful for His gracious working in us, in order that our knowledge of God may be increased and our faith and hope in Him strengthened.—Fergusson.

Eph . The Future Life.

I. Our virtuous friends at death go to Jesus Christ.—Here is one great fact in regard to futurity. The good on leaving us here meet their Saviour, and this view alone assures us of their unutterable happiness. The joys of centuries will be crowded into that meeting. This is not fiction. It is truth founded on the essential laws of the mind. Their intercourse with Jesus Christ will be of the most affectionate and ennobling character. They are brought to a new comprehension of His mind and to a new reception of His Spirit. They will become joint workers—active, efficient ministers—in accomplishing His great work of spreading virtue and happiness. They retain the deepest interest in this world. They love human nature as never before, and human friends are prized as above all price.

II. Our virtuous friends go not to Jesus only, but to the great and blessed society which is gathered round Him.—The redeemed from all regions of earth. They meet peculiar congratulations from friends who had gone before them to that better world, and especially from all who had in any way given aids to their virtue. If we have ever known the enjoyments of friendship, of entire confidence, of co-operation in honourable and successful labours with those we love, we can comprehend something of the felicity of a world where souls, refined from selfishness, open as the day, thirsting for new truth and virtue, endowed with new power of enjoying the beauty and grandeur of the universe, allied in the noblest works of benevolence, and continually discovering new mysteries of the Creator's power and goodness, communicate themselves to one another with the freedom of perfect love. They enter on a state of action, life, and effort. Still more, they go to God. They see Him with a new light in all His works. They see Him face to face, by immediate communion. These new relations of the ascended spirit to the universal Father, how near, how tender, how strong, how exalting! Heaven is a glorious reality. Its attraction should be felt perpetually. They who are safely gathered there say to us, Come and join us in our everlasting blessedness!—Channing.

Eph . The Supremacy of Jesus—

I. Acquired by His resurrection power.

II. Places Him above the highest created intelligences and potentates.

III. Is expressed in a name that surpasses in dignity and greatness that which has ever been or can be celebrated in earth or heaven.

IV. Gives Him absolute control over all worlds.—"And hath put all things under His feet" (Eph ).

Eph . Christ the Head of the Church.

I. The Church depends on Him for life, guidance, activity, and development.—"Which is His body" (Eph ).

II. He governs all things in the interest of His Church.—"And gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church" (Eph ).

III. The Church is a revelation of the greatness and glory of Christ.—"The fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph ).

Eph . The Headship of Christ.

I. The extent of His headship.—

1. Over all worlds.

2. Over the whole human race.

3. Over the Church.

II. The subserviency of its administration to the interests of His Church.—

1. For the edification of His Church. 2. For its defence.

3. For its increase.

III. Its grounds.—

1. His merit.

2. His qualifications. Whom do ye serve?—G. Brooks.

The Headship of Christ.—The verse consists of two statements:—

I. That Christ is Head over all things. The Father hath given Christ to be Head over all things.

1. Originally involved in a covenant or agreement between the Father and the Song of Solomon 2. Now a matter of history.

3. The path of Christ to the mediatorial throne capable of being traced.

4. He there laid deep the foundations.

5. The whole universe is under His sway—heaven, earth, hell, all worlds, all elements.

6. He is qualified for such dominion—divine attributes, angelic spirits, believers, the devil and wicked men, the Holy Spirit.

II. That Christ is Head over all things to the Church.—Christ sits upon the throne in the same character in which He trod the earth and hung upon the cross.

1. It is as Mediator

2. The same ends which He contemplated. It was for the Church He clothed Himself in human form.

3. He gives a peculiar character to the entire divine government. He Christianises it.

4. He employs all His attributes, resources, creatures.

Lessons.—

1. Redemption is a wide and extended plan, not so easily accomplished, not so limited.

2. All creatures and dominions should do Christ homage.

3. The Church is secure from real danger.

4. Believers may well glory in Christ as their Head.—Stewart.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ephesians 1:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/ephesians-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.


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Sunday, June 25th, 2017
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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