Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
1. Paul—Note, Romans 1:1.
Apostle of—Of, importing belonging to, rather than sent by.
By the will—As Paul anticipates no opposition to his apostleship, he does not, as in the case of his letter to the Galatians, (Galatians 1:1,) emphatically assert it, but gracefully assumes it.
Saints—Properly the ordinary title of all Church members.
Faithful— Importing both first belief and a continued fidelity.
2. Grace—The first of all blessings.
And peace—The blessed result.
God—The first fountain of grace.
Christ—The great maker of peace.
The benediction is the beautiful precursor of the delightful sunshine reigning through the whole epistle. Though a prisoner’s chain was on his arm, the rapture of blessing was in the apostle’s heart.
3. Blessed—First emphatic word and keynote to the rich and joyous tone of the whole paragraph. As the Greek word in both the New Testament and Septuagint is applied to God alone, so it signifies blessed, as God alone is blessed, divinely blessed. This eucharistic word the apostle uses to indicate, with holy gratitude, that the election for which he gives thanks is based in the eternal nature of God. For God does eternally, by his very nature and affinity, prefer and elect that which is holy, or freely consents to become so. See our note on “the true doctrine of the Church” touching election, vol. iii, p. 349.
God… of… Christ—Ellicott decides that most probably Father is only applied to Christ, and not God… God and the Father of, etc.
Blessed us—Alford well says, that “God’s blessing is in facts, ours only in words.”
Heavenly places—Places is not in the original, but is supplied by the translators, as is shown by the italics. The Greek adjective επουρανιοις, signifying pertaining to the heavenly regions, may imply either places or things: in Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12, places is required. The same Greek adjective in Matthew 18:35 (which in the Lord’s prayer, Matthew 6:9, is rendered “who art in heaven”) includes the entire comprehension of God’s omnipresence. In Philippians 2:10, it implies the heavenly inhabitants, the angels. In 1 Corinthians 15:48 it twice designates those from heaven—who are heavenly in nature. In 2 Timothy 4:18, it denotes the heavenly kingdom, and in Hebrews 3:1, heavenly calling. So in Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23, the adjective presupposes things heavenly in nature, origin, or relation, yet earthly in place.
The adjective may, therefore, imply place, that is, the heavenly region; or it may mean things on earth that are redolent of that place. As place, the word as variously used by St. Paul is very generic in its applications, embracing, if we collect all its uses, the entire spirit-world, all that is super-mundane or superhuman. So Ephesians 1:20, it implies the highest heavens, the right hand of God. In Ephesians 3:10, the angelic abodes. In Ephesians 6:12, it takes in the aerial battlefield with demoniac powers: that is, the air of Ephesians 2:2, where see note. In this verse it means clearly things on earth which are heavenly in quality. Hence, differing from Alford, Ellicott, and others, we think that here the phrase should be rendered heavenly things. For surely it was not in supermundane localities that the Ephesians enjoyed their spiritual blessings. They lived and enjoyed on earth.
THE DIVINE SIDE OF THE PROCESS OF FOUNDING A HOLY, GLORIOUS CHURCH, Ephesians 1:3 to Ephesians 3:21.
I. ITS ETERNAL DIVINE ORIGINATION IN PURPOSE, Ephesians 1:3-23.
1. An eternal election of all believers, Ephesians 1:3-8.
St. Paul opens by an affirmation of God’s abounding goodness in that he has chosen us to, (Ephesians 1:4,) predestinated us to, (Ephesians 1:5-8,) and made revelations to us of, (Ephesians 1:8-9,) the grand final summation of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
4. According as—The blessing of us by the blessed One is in full accordance with his eternal choice of us. But who are this us? This is a most important question in determining the meaning of this epistle. The objects of choice must present to the Chooser the proper qualities, either seen or foreseen, in order to being intelligently chosen. They cannot be mere characterless blanks. Nor are they personal or impersonal entities in which exist no qualities, conditions, or suitableness for being chosen rather than not, for that makes the Chooser act without a wise reason. But they are those who present the proper rational conditions of the divine choice, namely, submitting and believing men.
We may say that in the section 3-12 St. Paul uses the first person plural of the personal pronoun, namely, we, us, and our, thirteen times in all, which, while it explicitly includes himself and the Ephesians, it also, by implication, takes in all believers. With Ephesians 1:13 commences the second person, used mainly throughout the epistle. It applies specially to the Ephesians, with much that is inferentially true of all believers. In Ephesians 1:14 the our refers to the Ephesians and himself directly, and all other believers inferentially.
Hath chosen—The Greek is a word full of force—chose out for himself. The prefix εκ, out from, implies an unchosen remainder really or conditionally left, which remainder constitutes the anti-Church of chapter Ephesians 5:1-21. This choice was part of the grand divine ideal, the universal restoration of Ephesians 1:10.
In him—In Christ; as the mystical embodiment of the redemption in whom it was the divine idea and purpose of God’s mercy that all should be gathered, Ephesians 1:10.
Before the foundation of the world—The world is here figured as a building; and the builder as laying his plans for the transactions in the house before he lays its foundations. And as the builder is no less than the Eternal, so this before sends our thoughts back into the deep, dim, anterior eternity. And, then, Paul’s glad thought is, that salvation and the Church being gathered from out the world, is not a human thing of to-day, but a divine thing from eternity. The choice of a sinner conditioned upon his faith, now first objectively performed, is traced far back into the divine mind, as in a mirror; the mind that, foreseeing all things, and precognizing the evil to result from the misdirected freewill of finite man, provides and adjusts them with the good, so that the highest good is ultimately attained.
The fact that God chooses—chooses us from all eternity, chooses us out from the world, chooses us from his divine good pleasure—does not in the slightest degree countenance the inadmissible idea that God does not know and foreknow what he is choosing, as well as the reasons both without the man and within the man on account of which he is chosen. Scripture most decisively shuts out from the text such an idea. The apostle puts foreknowledge as antecedent to predestination. “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate,” Romans 8:29, where see our notes. So also 1 Peter 1:2 : “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” And this election is made definite, individual, and sure by our performance of the human condition: 2 Peter 1:10, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” So that this elective purpose, as ideal purpose in eternity, becomes objective and real divine act in time.
In this present paragraph, Paul says little about conditions, and nothing to exclude them. He says little about them because it is not the human but the divine side of this election upon which he is now, with grateful rapture, expatiating. The human side comes in at Ephesians 2:4. Preaching to unconverted men, he would make the condition the main topic, calling upon them to enter, by faith and repentance, into the range of God’s eternal conditional purpose, by which he, from all eternity, chooses all who truly believe.
That we should be holy—As faith is the condition upon which we are elected, so holiness, blamelessness, and eternal life, are the results for which and to which we are elected. See note on Romans 8:29.
Holy and without blame—”The positive and negative aspects,” says Ellicott, “of true Christian life.”
Before him—Blameless even under His dread scrutiny.
In love—Meyer, Ellicott, and others, join this to predestinated; making a predestination in love. To this Afford objects, conclusively, that all the three leading verbs, chosen, predestinated, made known, being co-ordinate with each other, have no qualifying phrase prefixed, but lead and give the drift of what follows. Love is the element in which the forgiven soul is held before God as without blame, not justice or innocence in the past; love, as from God and reciprocated to God.
4. Paul’s thanksgiving for the Ephesians, and prayer for their realization of Christ’s glorious headship, Ephesians 1:15-23.
15. Wherefore—In view of your thus being happily sealed to this inheritance, Ephesians 1:13-14.
I also—In response to ye, Ephesians 1:13. My prayers are for the sealing which is to result in possession, Ephesians 1:14.
Heard—He probably had not seen them in four or five years.
6. Praise of the glory of his grace—The glory, is the quality of the grace; the praise, is the response of all God’s glorified ones in the contemplation of the glory of that grace. Perhaps praise of the gloriousness of his grace, gives the exact meaning.
The beloved—Perhaps an allusion to David, the type of the Messiah, whose name signifies beloved.
7. In whom—Having mentioned Christ under the endearing title of the Beloved, that blessed name becomes the hinge upon which Ephesians 1:7-10 turn, being a climax of blessedness culminating in the final restitution of Ephesians 1:10. The successive steps of the climax are, redemption, forgiveness, grace, revelation, beneficence, universal restitution.
Redemption—Release from a bondage to sin and death for a ransom price.
Through his blood— The price of the ransom.
Forgiveness—The immediate shape which the redemption takes.
Riches—Parallel to glory in Ephesians 1:6 : glory accruing to God, riches flowing down upon man.
8. Wherein—Namely, in grace.
Abounded—Has been aboundingly liberal.
Prudence—Rather, understanding, namely, of the mystery of the next verse.
2. This eternal election is according to a divine ideal of an ultimate reconciliation of all mankind, through the headship of Christ, unto God, Ephesians 1:9-10.
9. Having made known—This making known is a revelation in time of a mystery which was in eternity; namely, the revelation by the gospel. It is a disclosure to the world of what was designed before the foundation of the world.
Mystery—The matter covered by the mystery, namely, the gracious designs of God which truly lie in his eternal holy nature. Hence mystery of his will means the hitherto unrevealed beneficent restorative purpose by God willed in the past eternity; that is, the divine ideal of God for the restoration of all men, through the divine Son of man, to oneness with God.
According to his good pleasure—Literally, according to the beneficence of his which he hath purposed. The beneficence consisting in the summation, in Christ, of Ephesians 1:10.
In rendering ευδοκια beneficence, we differ from Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, and others, and agree with Olshausen and Eadie. The former are obliged to render in substance: Having revealed… according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed. But to purpose a good pleasure is a solecism. Having revealed… according to the beneficence of his, which he purposed, makes sense. And then Paul goes on to tell what the purposed beneficence is.
The phrase according to, is used five times in the section. God’s blessing accords with his choice of us: his predestination with beneficence of his will: forgiveness with riches of grace: revelation with beneficence: predestination with purpose.
10. εις οικονομιαν του πληρωματος των καιρων, a very difficult clause, being in the English translation in the dispensation of the fulness of times. There is no Greek for the that.
We can best attain an explanation by taking the last word first, and going backwards. καιρων, times, signifies the ages, aeons, or time-periods, in each of which a system of events is completed, and from which transition is then made to the next. πληρωματος is the filling full, or rounding out, the events of one given time-system: hence of the time-periods the fulfilling with events. Ellicott perplexes matters by rendering πληρωματος “that moment that completes, fills up,” the time-period; whereas it may be (see Rob. Greek Lex. N.T.) a verbal noun, (equivalent to πληρωσις,) and signify the process of fulfilling. οικονομιαν, dispensation, is the management, administration, or control of the fulfilling of the time-periods, extending over the whole series. Most dubious of all is the εις, into, a preposition signifying motion to, or into, a place or thing, and impossible to be rendered simply in. The rendering of Erasmus, Calvin, and others, even to, Alford condemns justly as unintelligible. His own in order to, is, perhaps, just as unintelligible. So seems his entire rendering: “According to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself, in order to the economy of the fulfilment of the seasons to sum up all things in the Christ.” Ellicott’s rendering of the preposition, with a view to, for, is better, making it signify mental motion toward a thing.
We apprehend, however, that commentators have not noticed in this connexion the force of the preposition εις in the phrases εις αιωνας, unto, or into, ages; where εις signifies not only into, but throughout, or in the course of; the preposition running through the whole line of the ages, and so making forever. And so here the force of the preposition is, we think, fully expressed by in the course of. Our own rendering, then, would be: the beneficence which he purposed in himself (namely) in the course of the management of the filling up of the time-periods, to sum up together all things in the Messiah. So, as the final summing up of all is one in the series of the time-periods, the purpose runs through the whole series.
Gather together—The Greek a very full compound, re-gather-for-himself. Same as to reconcile in Colossians 1:20, where see notes. The two passages, written at the same time in epistles sent by the same messengers to the same region of country, must be held as strictly parallel, the clearer defining the less clear. This summing up, or gathering together, is unto the redemption of Ephesians 1:7, just as the reconcile of Colossians 1:20 is unto the redemption of Ephesians 1:14 of that chapter. The nature of the reconciliation in Colossians is made clear by the result of the peace made being by the cross; and so also the fact that you hath he reconciled, in Colossians 1:21, shows, by specimen, that it is reconciliation by conversion and pardon. This disproves the construction given by Meyer, Alford, and other commentators, that the gather together is compositely a reconciliation of the penitent, together with a subjection of the impenitent to a discordant unity under Christ, as in 1 Corinthians 15:28, where see note. Beyond all question, we think, a reconciliation by redemption to peace, through the blood of his cross, of all things in heaven and on earth, is what the apostle means.
Is, then, the doctrine of the actual final restoration of all men to holiness true?
Of all our commentators, Olshausen and Turner express, we think, the truth. Such a restoration is the full divine IDEA of God’s beneficence in the cross. Such is the complete fulness which it pleased the Father there should be in Christ. God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. And hence the apostle beseeches, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled. Christ is officially the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world: the Saviour of all men; the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Thus the divine idea in Christ is a universal salvation through a universal reconciliation; a gathering together of all things in him.
Why is this ideal not realized? A large body of Scriptures lays the fault upon men. On the divine side the idea is sincere, the provisions are ample; on the human side the powers, natural and gracious, are ample; but the fulness of Christ is rejected. The ideal of God’s mercy is universal; but the eternal ideal of his holy choice, election, or predestination, is circumscribed by human perversity; since it can embrace only those who fully accord with it by consenting to be holy. “This is the condemnation, that… men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” And this is the reason why, in the foreknowledge of God, foreseeing men’s persistent evil, they cannot, in time, be elected to himself by a holy God; yet he, accepting the future facts as they appear to his prescience, nevertheless triumphantly so works all things after the counsel of his own will, as, perhaps, to bring out of this world even a higher result than could have accrued from a sinless world. This last fact may, perhaps, be the divine justification in the non-prevention of the responsible sin his wisdom foresees.
All things… in heaven… on earth—But not in hell. God and man, Christ and man, angels and man, but not God and devils, are brought to peace through the blood of his cross. The only obstacle was man’s enmity and sin, and the consequent holy opposition of all righteous beings to man. When man accepts the cross, the reconciliation becomes complete, and man comes into the happy number of the elect—of elect men with elect angels. The making heaven and earth signify Jews and Gentiles, adopted by some commentators, (Dr. Clarke included,) produces a meaning far below the grandeur of St. Paul’s language. Nothing but the fullest meaning of the terms is here admissible.
In him—Repeated in joyful emphasis; for Christ is the predominant topic ever since his naming as the Beloved in Ephesians 1:6.
11. Obtained an inheritance—The Greek verb for this phrase, εκληρωθημεν, is derived from a root ( κληρος) signifying lot, and radically means to acquire by lot, and thence to acquire by inheritance, or any other mode of allotment or distribution. And being in the passive form here, it might be rendered have been inherited. The sense would then be, not that the elect has obtained an inheritance, but that the elect is itself the inheritance of Christ in the restitution. That would make an impressive and truly biblical idea; Acts 20:28, Titus 2:14, and in the Old Testament, Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18. This construction is adopted by Afford, Ellicott, and many others. But it is certainly wrong; being contradicted, as we may show, at several subsequent points, and especially in Ephesians 1:13-14, where unquestionably it is the elect who are sealed over as obtainers of the inheritance, and not as being inherited. Meyer has shown that the active meaning of the word is admissible.
According to some commentators (see Meyer) the lot, as meaning a die, indicates here the pure groundlessness of an individual election, “because in the elect themselves there is no cause why they should be elected rather than others.” That is, our holy God decides the eternal salvation or damnation of immortal souls without reason, with a fortuity imaged by the casting of a die or the tossing of a copper! Such an interpretation sinks both the divine character and the authority of Scripture below the level of moral respect. The glory of our election, forsooth, is due to the chance that turned us up heads! All this is contradicted by the words purpose and counsel, indicating a divine fore-deliberated choice in view of the proper conditioned quality of the object chosen. It is as gratuitous an interpretation as it is abhorrent; for the word is used abundantly, without any reference to chance, to signify inheritance, estates, lands.
The reference to the allotment of the tribes in Canaan, the land of promise, is not to be held as subsidiary, but as a key to all that follows. The restitution of Ephesians 1:10 is unto God’s Canaan, which we have by him inherited. It is to this restitution-land that we believers, having inherited, are predestinated, sealed over by the Spirit of promise—promise, namely, of the restitution-land; which Spirit is our first instalment (earnest) thereof (namely, of the land) until the completed redemption (initiated at Ephesians 1:7) of the originally purchased possession. The entire body of commentators, ancient and modern, so far as we know, seem to have failed to grasp this clew, and so appear to miss the meaning.
Predestinated—Being fore-destinated to the gracious rewards of faith. See on Ephesians 1:5. The rewards to which they are destined is the allotment into the restoration as partakers of the inheritance from Jehovah. All things, must not be limited either to Jews and Gentiles, or to the things of the kingdom of Christ; for it is Paul’s purpose to trace the origin of the holy Church back to God, the almighty Ruler of all things. It does not thence follow that physical events and free volitions are worked alike. In the former, God’s immanent energy originates and directs all action by such uniformity as assumes to us the aspect of necessary law; but in the free agent God supplies the energy for action, while it is the very property of the freedom of the agent that within—in the area of his freedom—he directs his own actions. Yet these free actions it is the prerogative of Infinite Wisdom to take into his plan, and work them in accordance with his own counsel to his own glorious ends. Note on Matthew 11:25, and on Romans 9. Counsel belongs to the deliberative intellect, and the word here denotes the final conclusion attained by the deliberation, and adopted by the will. God’s counsel, therefore, in full view of all possible results, from all possible courses, results in a choice of absolute wisdom.
3. In which reconciliation we (Paul and brethren) have obtained lot, 11-12.
In this universal divine ideal of restoration, his brethren and self (inferentially including all believers) have realized a happy lot by faith. Their ideal election in eternity past has become a real election in the present. They have come within the scope of that predestination that infallibly connects trust in Christ to a real share in the divine reconciliation.
12. We—The same we as in the preceding verses, meaning Paul and his Ephesians directly, including all believers inferentially. Most commentators (including Meyer, Ellicott, and Riddle) make who in apposition with we, and to… glory, the main predicate; reading thus: that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of his glory. (!) It seems sufficient to refute this to note, that to the praise of his glory, however pregnant in meaning, is, in every instance, a subordinate clause, and not the main predicate of the sentence, Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:14; none the less so in the last instance because brought so emphatically at the close of the sentence. The meaning of the verse is: we are predestinated, the glory being God’s, to be fore-hopers in Christ.
First trusted—Literal Greek, the ones having fore-hoped in Christ. It does not mean that we trusted (or, more correctly rendered, fore-hoped) before somebody else, or that we are by God designed to be the earliest believers; but we, like all believers, hoped for the restitutive inheritance in Christ before its realization. As Ephesians 1:9-10 describe the restitution, Ephesians 1:11 says we have an inheritance therein, being predestinated; Ephesians 1:12 now tells us to what we are predestinated, namely, to being fore-hopers in Christ for attaining the inheritance in the restitution.
All the commentators we have examined here seem, we think, to miss the true meaning. The we they take to be Jews, and ye Gentiles; the distinctive of the Jews being, that they fore-hoped in the Christ, that is, the Messiah. Alford thinks it a proof of this meaning that Christ has here the article before it, and so signifies the Messiah. It seems enough to reply that Christ has the article before it in Ephesians 1:10, where it signifies the Messiah, not as specifically fore-hoped by the Jews, but the Messiah of our race, as its great restorer. The we of Ephesians 1:12 must, then, be the we of Ephesians 1:11, and that of all the previous wes, or first persons plural, of the paragraph; so that it would follow that Paul is, forsooth, all the time speaking about Jews until Ephesians 1:13! If not, let we of Ephesians 1:11 be the universal elect, and of Ephesians 1:12 the Jews; then what is the meaning? It would then mean we, the universal Church, are predestinated in order that we, Jews, expecting the Messiah, may be to the praise of his glory!
But what is the meaning of the Greek word (rendered incorrectly in the English version first trusted) προηλπικοτας, the ones having fore-hoped—fore-hopers? It means those who hoped before the attainment of the object of hope; hoped for a distant restitution. The objection of Alford, that fore-hope is, then, nothing more than hope, is nugatory. One might as well say that to predestinate, that is, to fore-destine, is nothing more than to destine. But in both cases the prefix serves to rest the mind on the anterior state of the hoping man, as looking to, and waiting for, the future result.
4. Into which predestination ye Ephesians have entered by faith, Ephesians 1:13-14.
13. Ye—From the we of the general elect St. Paul now makes transition to the ye of the Ephesian elect, (which ye is mostly maintained through the epistle,) tracing the brief history of their hearing the gospel, believing, and being sealed over by the Spirit, to the final restitution of Ephesians 1:10. As founder of the Ephesian Church, St. Paul’s memory naturally recurs to the blessed process in which, by faith, they came into the glorious scheme of the divine election. He begins at these three verses the history of the inclusion of the Ephesians into the predestination unto the inheritance, but suspends it through Ephesians 1:16-23, and then he resumes it at Ephesians 2:1. That is, he veers from completing that history here, because at Ephesians 1:16-19 his mind is carried away by the thought of his prayer for their realizing their lot in Christ’s headship; and then, at Ephesians 1:20-23, his mind is borne upward by the thought of the glory of that headship. When these two successive raptures have passed, Paul resumes, in Ephesians 2:1, the thread of history commenced at Ephesians 1:13-15. Overlooking these two parenthetic digressions, the reader should tie this verse fast to Ephesians 2:1, as forming one narrative.
In whom ye—Ephesians, parallel to in whom… we, Ephesians 1:11. We understand the two whoms of the present verse to be parallels, and the whole verse to be one sentence: In whom also ye, having heard, in whom also having believed: ye were sealed, etc. Faith came upon hearing; actual election came upon faith; and then sealing came upon their election. The first in whom, referring to Christ, implies that it is in him, as Lord and embodiment of the gospel, that men hear the gospel.
Sealed—As heirs of your inheritance. In ordinary cases it is the title-deed that is sealed; but the regenerate nature, wrought by the Spirit, is the true title-deed of the elect.
Holy Spirit—The impressive Greek phrase is, the Spirit of promise, the Holy. Why called the Spirit of promise? Meyer replies: “The term promise is a qualifying characteristic of the Holy Spirit, for it is promised in the Old Testament. Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:26, and onward; Ezekiel 39:29; compare Galatians 3:14.” And so the body of commentators. All this is good, and prepares us for the true point; but the point itself, as we are obliged to understand it, they fail to give. He is the Spirit of promise, not as promised, but as promising. He is the Spirit of promise because, being to us who are sealed an earnest, he promises to us our inheritance; that same inheritance which we have obtained in Ephesians 1:11, (where see note,) identical with the gather together of Ephesians 1:10, procured by the redemption both in Ephesians 1:14 and Ephesians 1:7, which are, in fact, identical. It is to this inheritance (identical with the gather together of Ephesians 1:10) that the predestination, not only of Ephesians 1:11 but of Ephesians 1:5, is made, and into that predestination the ye of Ephesians 1:13 entered by the faith named in Ephesians 1:15.
14. The earnest—See note, 2 Corinthians 1:20. The blessed Spirit is a first instalment, a small portion, of our inheritance already given us to assure us that it will be finally bestowed in fulness.
Our inheritance—Not God’s, or Christ’s inheritance of the elect, but the elects’ inheritance of the final reconciliation in Christ. See note on Ephesians 1:11. This pledge looks to the completed redemption (see Ephesians 1:7) of the purchased possession, namely, the possession purchased through his blood, (Ephesians 1:7,) which possession takes place at and in the reconciliation of Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:20.
Paul showed in the previous paragraph a picture of the final reconciliation in Christ, the glorious head, and of the blessedness of an election through faith to that inheritance. He now prays that the minds of those addressed may be raised to a full conception of that blissful consummation, and then gives a second picture of Christ in his glorious redeeming headship. The three transcendent passages (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:19-23, and Colossians 1:14-19) should be read together as correspondent parts of the same sublime portraiture.
16. Cease not—This implies three things: 1. That the apostle was incessant in prayer. 2. That individual objects dear to his heart were specially introduced into his prayers; and, 3. That his Ephesians were, after his hearing of their faith had aroused his interest and hope, among those special objects.
17. The particular object for which Paul incessantly prayed in their behalf, namely, their elevation of view to take in this grandeur of the redeeming Christ, of which he gives a picture in Ephesians 1:20-23.
God of… Christ—In the entire passage, 20-23, St. Paul describes Christ rather in his manhood raised by process to a divine exaltation, just as in Philippians 2:6-8 he describes his divinity as gradually humanized and humiliated. The reason for the former view here is to furnish basis for the parallelism in Ephesians 2:4-7, identifying our exaltation with Christ’s, produced by our divine identification with him. This exaltation of both Christ and his elect finds its glorious cause in him who is God of both. For, as Meyer says, “God hath sent Christ, given him to death, raised and exalted him.”
Father of glory— See note on Acts 7:2. The glory, sometimes made visible to human eyes in the old dispensation, represented the divine splendour which our thoughts necessarily attribute to God, like the light we attribute to the sun. And such visible glory also represents that moral glory we attribute to the divine actions and character. From such glory in both kinds, the Trinity, or the Father primarily, is called from his power, God of glory, Psalms 29:3; and from his supremacy, King of glory, Psalms 24:7. As origin and generator of all this gloriousness he is now here called Father of glory, as he is called “Father of lights,” James 1:17. So, Father of mercies, 2 Corinthians 1:3. Christ is Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8; and so there are cherubim of glory, Hebrews 9:5. It is of the moral glory made visible in our redemption to the eyes of your understanding, when enlightened by this Father of glory, that St. Paul specially here speaks; the glory, glory, glory, of Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14. This glory can break upon their view through the mists of earthliness only by the double process of verbal revelation to them and of quickening their inner powers to behold and realize it. For this they need wisdom, revelation, enlightened eyes.
Spirit—A divinely communicated spirit, by which revelation is made.
18. A series of three whats now, in order of climax, unfold the grandeur which it is Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians may know. The climax is indicated by the terms hope, riches, power. They are to realize how cheering their present hope, how rich their future inheritance, and how stupendous the power exerted by God in executing the vast work of preparing and securing that inheritance.
Hope of his calling—That is, the hope of that to the enjoyment of which God calls you. See note, Romans 1:1 and Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians 7:20-22. Eadie mistakenly says: “Man’s calling is often slighted, but God’s is effectual calling.” Scripture frequently declares, in very intense language, that God’s call “is often slighted.” Proverbs 1:24. In increasing vigour St. Paul adds, the riches of the glory of his inheritance—For the inheritance, consult notes on Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7. Of this inheritance they should realize not only the glory, but the unbounded affluence, the riches of that glory. They must enlarge their understandings to conceive how rich is the glory of the inheritance.
His—God’s to bestow on us. Note on Ephesians 1:14.
In the saints—As this glory is to take place in the great day of accomplished reconciliation of Ephesians 1:10, namely, at the advent, and is a reconciliation of all in holiness, we might render this, among the holy ones. Nevertheless, since it is plain that it is the Church (Ephesians 1:22) particularly whose share in this glory is now in Paul’s view, saints may be the true rendering.
19. The apostle completes his threefold climax by unfolding the stupendous power exerted by God to produce this glory.
Us… who believe—And this believe, that is, faith, is the condition performed by us. Note, Ephesians 1:8. We have already said that as Paul here is unfolding the riches of the glory of the divine side of our redemption, so he says little of our condition from the human side. But nevertheless the objects of the whole election of God are viewed as possessing certain objective qualities by which they, rather than others, are eligible to choice. Those who deny this are in a dilemma, falling sometimes upon one horn and sometimes on the other. Sometimes we are told by them that absolutely there is no reason in one, rather than another, for God’s preference; and that makes it an irrational volition. It is an act not only without a rational motive, but a volition without any motive at all; which most Calvinists pronounce to be an impossibility. At other times we are told that there is a reason, but the reason is not revealed to us.
But if there be a reason for preferring one object to another, why may not that reason just as reasonably be faith as any other? The reason must be some preferability in one above another. To say there is no reason, no preferability, in the object for an act so stupendous, and in which St. Paul recognizes so transcendent a glory, is to make Omniscience an idiot. And if any preferability in the object exists, beyond all question it is faith in the man underlying the divine choice resting upon him. And this is Paul’s declaration. Us… who believe are the objects of the efficient action of redemption. These are the us whom he hath chosen Ephesians 1:4 : the us whom he has predestinated, Ephesians 1:5; the us whom he hath made accepted, Ephesians 1:6; and the us to whom he hath made known the mystery of his will, Ephesians 1:9. Hereby is harmonized the glorious supremacy of God with the free choice of the creature. God, in infinite and eternal power and goodness, provides the entire system of redemption into which man, by his empowered but not necessitated faith, is graciously and gloriously comprehended and embodied. See our notes on Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9:1-33.
The working of his mighty power—An elaborate clause in the apostle’s Greek, την ενεργειαν του κρατους της ισχυος αυτου, the working of the force of his strength. Taking the last first, ισχυος is personal strength or vigour inhering in a person; κρατους is the force or momentum with which it can go forth; ενεργειαν is the objective working, or action of the personal strength in its full force or efficiency. We are not to concede to adverse criticism that this is a mere wordy accumulation of terms. In the grandeur of this movement the apostle’s eye presents every successive stage. From the working he travels through its momentum up to the might inherent in the divine PERSON. Calvin, quoted by Alford, ingeniously says: “The might is the root, the momentum is the tree, the working is the fruit.”
20. St. Paul now pictures the stupendous working of this power, beginning with Christ’s resurrection, and finishing (Ephesians 1:23) with his glorious supremacy. No human machineries—nay, no catastrophes in geology, no forces in astronomy—furnish to the eyes divinely enlightened so sublime and so gracious a display of the omnipotence of the Father of glory as the work he hath wrought in Christ. And the glory of this work has the profoundest interest for us, as we are identified with Christ through all the stages here traced. So the apostle will show in Ephesians 2:1-7. This work was in Christ, but for us who believe.
From the dead—From deads, or dead ones; being the Greek genitive plural without the article. See note on Luke 20:35.
Right hand—See notes on Acts 7:55-56. The spirit eyes of the martyr Stephen were so enlightened and vivified as to see the realities of God and Christ in the supernal world; namely, Christ at the right hand of God. See our note, Romans 8:34.
In heavenly places— In those superterrene domains which our eyes of flesh cannot see unless, like Stephen’s, supernaturally quickened. See note on Ephesians 1:3.
21. All principality, and power—See our note on Romans 8:38. The entities named by the apostle as those over whom Christ is exalted are abstract dignities, not real personal beings. His person is over all other personal beings, because his rank is above all other ranks. Personal natures are often mentioned in Scripture, as cherubim, seraphim, angels, and archangels. And in all scenic or apocalyptic representations these personal beings appear. No commentator has given any clear distinction between the entities of this verse. The apostle mentions these entities simply as indicating that such varied supernal dignities do exist, but that in what they consist he does not claim to personally know, or find it in his inspiration to reveal.
Every name—Whatever name you utter, the name of Christ is its superior.
This world—This time-world. So that through all future aeons, or time-worlds, Jesus is the supreme name.
22. The last previous verse declares the superiority of Christ’s rank; this declares that all inferiors are directly subjected to his rule.
Put… feet— The words are evidently run in from Psalms 8:6, where they are spoken of man as the supreme of the earth. Christ is the supreme ideal man. And here is a peaceful supremacy different from the subjection of all things by conquest specified in 1 Corinthians 15:27.
Gave him… to the Church—But while this supremacy embraces all in its benign sway, there is one object over which and to which he is a special donation. He is ruler over all; but he is given head, even in his universal supremacy, to the Church. God gave him head, while over an things, to the Church.
23. His body—So that he and the Church are one conceptual person. He unifies, vivifies, inspires that body with which, as its head, he is identical and one. All in all, is expressly limited in the parallel passage. 1 Corinthians 15:28. (see note,) to God the Father, or the whole Trinity. That the passages are parallel is clear from the same quotation from the Psalm being used in both. Him, therefore, refers not, we think, to Christ, but to God. Paul’s words regarding Christ in Ephesians 4:10, “fill all things,” are by no means equivalent, as Alford quotes them, to this repeated all in all of God. Besides, through this whole chapter and the next, the eternal origination of the Church is ascribed to God. Filleth, in the Greek, is passive in form, and most properly signifies is filled; or, (as the same word is rendered in Colossians 4:12; John 3:29, and elsewhere,) filled in the sense of complete, perfected, filled-out. Hence we understand that while the Church is Christ’s body, it is also the fulness of God, who is the full-orbed all in all. It is a question whether Paul intends fulness as imparted to Christ, or fulness as ever dwelling in God. By a comparison of the word as occurring in Ephesians 3:19, and Colossians 1:19, it seems to include both God’s fulness as indwelling, and as overflowing, by impartation, unto Christ. It is by that fulness, from God imparted, that the Church becomes Christ’s body. And so throughout both these chapters Christ is presented in his glorious subordination to God.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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