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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
General Editor: J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.,
Bishop of Worcester.
the epistle to the
with introduction and notes
The rev. h. c. g. moule, m.a.
principal of ridley hall, and late fellow of trinity college,
edited for the syndics of the university press .
at the university press
[ All Rights reserved .]
By the General Editor
The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.
Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.
Chapter I . Ephesus: Asia: St Paul’s connexion with Ephesus
Chapter II . St Paul at Rome: occasion and date of the Epistle
Chapter III . Authenticity of the Epistle
Chapter IV . In what sense was the Epistle addressed to the Ephesians?
Chapter V . Parallels between the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to the Colossians
Chapter VI . The Charge of St Paul to the Ephesian Elders: the Epistles to Timothy: the Apocalyptic Epistle to the Ephesian Angel
Chapter VII . Argument of the Epistle
* * * The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible . A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible , published by the Cambridge University Press.
Ephesus is the Metropolis of Asia, and was consecrated to Artemis … Pythagoras is said to have come from Ephesus … The schools of Parmenides, Zeno, and Democritus, and many philosophers even of our time, are to be found there. This I say not for the sake of saying it, but to shew that Paul needed much earnest care in writing to the Ephesians … The Epistle overflows with lofty thoughts and doctrines. He writes it from prison at Rome … Things which he scarcely anywhere else utters, he here expounds.
St Chrysostom, Preamble to his Homilies on the Epistle .
ephesus: asia: st paul’s connexion with ephesus
A brief notice of Ephesus itself will be sufficient here, for the Epistle, whatever was its destination (see pp. 24, &c.), deals scarcely at all with local features and interests. Its pictures of surrounding forms of thought and life are common, if not to the world of the apostolic age in general, certainly to the then world of western Asia Minor 1 1 On the supposed allusion, ch. 2, to the Temple of Artemis (Diana), see the remark, p. 27. .
Ephesus was colonized mainly from Athens, and the Ephesians inherited something of Athenian genius. The great painters, Parrhasius (cent. 5 b.c.) and Apelles (cent. 4 b.c.), were both Ephesians. But Asiatic elements, no doubt, largely entered into the race and thought of the people. For a great harbour and emporium the situation of the city was remarkable. It stood some miles from the open coast, on a landlocked basin, the Sacred Port. This was artificially embanked, and connected with the sea by a broad channel which communicated with the river Caÿster between the city and the shore. In primeval times the sea, not yet shut out by the alluvium of the Caÿster, had washed the buildings of the city, but long before the apostolic age a process of silting, made worse by mistaken engineering, had begun to choke the channel, and ultimately cut off altogether the waterway to the sea. It was already difficult in St Paul’s time to sail into the Sacred Port.
The two architectural features of Ephesus which come up in the Scripture narrative are the Temple of Artemis (Diana), and the Theatre. The Ephesian Artemis had little if any connexion with the Huntress of Hellenic mythology. Her statue, with its many breasts, betokened the fertility of Nature, and was engraved, in Greek letters, with a magic legend. The mighty Temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, stood facing eastward, outside the city walls. First and last, it was the work of 220 years; built of shining marble; 342 feet long by 164 feet broad; supported by a forest of columns each 56 feet high; a sacred museum of master-pieces of sculpture and painting. At the centre, hidden by curtains within a gorgeous shrine ( nâos ), stood the very ancient image of the Goddess, of wood or ebony 1 1 The material was uncertain. It may have been even an aërolite. , reputed to have fallen from the sky. Behind the shrine was a treasury where, as in “the safest bank in Asia,” nations and kings stored their most precious things. The Temple, as St Paul saw it, subsisted till a. d. 262, when it was ruined by the Goths.
The Theatre, excavated on the western side of Mount Coressus, and, like all ancient theatres, open to the sky, was the largest in the Hellenic world, capable of containing 50,000 spectators. Not far to the north of it lay the Stadium, or Racecourse, where also the fights of beasts, and of men with beasts, were shewn. To this we can trace figurative references in the great Epistle written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 4:9 , 1 Corinthians 4:9 :24, 25, 1 Corinthians 4:15 :32).
Ephesus was the capital of Proconsular Asia. The Roman province so called included the whole western coast of our Asia Minor and a considerable interior region. It was governed by a Proconsul, chosen by lot from only the Consulars, or Past-Consuls; a distinction confined to Asia and Libya. The Proconsul was assisted, or checked, by the Agent (Procurator) of the Emperor, and by other Roman officials. But the province was permitted in a subordinate degree to administer its own affairs, through municipalities, a Senate, and a popular Assembly, which Assembly met usually in the Ephesian Theatre. The President of the Senate and Assembly was the “Clerk,” or “Recorder,” of Acts 19:0 . He held office for a year, and the year was dated by his name. Another important dignity was that of “Asiarch” (Acts 19:31 ; “chief of Asia,” A.V.; “chief officers of Asia,” R.V.). The Asiarchs had for their main function, along with a priestly office, the duty of providing (in a large measure) and of controlling 1 1 “The Asiarch Philip” appears in the narrative of St Polycarp’s martyrdom (a.d. 166) at Smyrna (ch. 12), as the authority to whom the populace appeal to let a lion loose upon the martyr. See the Excursus on the Asiarchate, Lightfoot’s Ignatius , &c. vol. 11. sect. ii. pp. 987 &c. the great public games and shows, all of which bore a quasi-sacred character.
The earliest N. T. allusion to the region of Ephesus may be found in Acts 2:9 , where we find some pious Jews from “Asia” among the crowd at Pentecost. Through these men, or some of them, the first intimations of the Gospel may have reached the plain of the Caÿster.
St Paul, in the early stages of his great second missionary circuit (a.d. 51) was divinely “forbidden to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6 ). But at its close, on his way from Greece to Syria, he visited Ephesus (Acts 18:18-21 ), bringing Aquila and Priscilla with him, and leaving them there. His own stay was short, as he was hastening to keep a festival, probably Pentecost, at Jerusalem; and his evangelistic work consisted wholly in “reasonings” (perhaps in one isolated “reasoning,” for the verb is aorist, ver. 19) with the Jews in their synagogue. The impression made by his message must have been favourable, for he was pressed to stay, and departed with a promise to return. During his absence, in Syria and Asia Minor (Acts 18:22 , Acts 18:23 , Acts 18:19 :1), Apollos visited Ephesus, received full Christian instruction from Aquila and Priscilla, and passed on to Corinth (Acts 18:24-28 ).
St Paul’s second visit lasted over three years (Acts 20:31 ), probably from a.d. 54 to a.d. 57. He arrived from the interior of Asia Minor (Acts 19:1 , where “upper coasts” means “inland parts”). He found, no doubt, some results already of the labours of Aquila and Priscilla, and of Apollos. But the only recorded details of his earliest work are the discovery, instruction, baptism, and miraculous endowment of a small group of embryo Christians, if we may call them so (19:1 7), and three months of discussion and appeal in the Jewish synagogue where he had been so well received before (19:8). Opposition now developed, and as a considerable number of “disciples” had attached themselves to the Gospel, he separated them for purposes of worship and teaching, making the “school of Tyrannus” his Christian synagogue. This may have been, as Alford suggests, a “private synagogue” belonging to a Jew Tyrannus, or the lecture-room of a Gentile convert Tyrannus, or a hall known as “Tyrannus’ hall” 1 1 The probable reading, Acts 19:9, is not “ one Tyrannus,” but “Tyrannus.” .
Here for full two years (19:10) he discoursed daily, just as modern missionaries in India or China do in chapels or wayside rooms. And such was the power of the message, with its attendant physical miracles (19:12), and its victorious exposure of the magical practices 2 2 See further, Appendix G. for which Ephesus was famous (19:13 20), and such was the facility and frequency of intercourse between Ephesus and its province, that the Gospel was “heard” during these two years by “all them that dwelt in Asia, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10, and cp. 26). This doubtless means that there was no Asiatic town or district, generally speaking, which the Gospel did not penetrate, whether by means of deputed missionaries, such as Epaphras probably was, sent out by the Apostle from Ephesus, or by native visitors to Ephesus, returning to their homes as actual converts or, at least, “enquirers.” Modern missionary work, an instructive but neglected commentary on the Acts, can supply ample illustrations of such an extension of the Gospel 3 3 See two small but suggestive books, The Story of the Fuh-kien Mission of the Church Missionary Society , and The Story of the Cheh-keang Mission . .
As regards St Paul’s own work, it seems clear that he remained stationary, on the whole, at Ephesus. To the Ephesian presbyters (20:18) he speaks of having been with them “ the whole time ” (rather than “at all times,” A. V.). And in Colossians 2:1 we find him implying, in the obvious sense of the words, that he had never personally visited the missions in the vale of the Lycus Colossæ and Hierapolis. We dwell on this double phenomenon, the Apostle’s fixity of residence and wide extent of influence, as tending to explain the facts which constitute the problem of Ephesians 1:1 , and which are discussed more fully below, pp. 24, &c. It may help the reader to a clear conception of the geographical extent of this two years’ work, to enumerate the places in Proconsular Asia named in the N. T. All the Seven Churches of the Revelation are of the number, and Troas, Assos, Adramyttium, Miletus, Trogyllium, Hierapolis, and Colossæ.
This period of extraordinary influence and success, along with constant Jewish opposition (Acts 20:19 ), was closed somewhat sooner, perhaps, than the Apostle had planned, by the tumult raised by Demetrius (Acts 19:0 ); itself a direct testimony to the extent and depth of the work of the Gospel in the city and province.
The First Epistle to the Corinthians was written from Ephesus, at some time during this long stay of the Apostle. Its date lies close to the end of the stay. The writer (ch. 16) evidently contemplates a speedy visit to Macedonia on the way to Corinth. We have referred already to the Ephesian allusions to be found in that Epistle.
On St Paul’s last voyage to Syria (a.d. 58) he touched (Acts 20:15 ) at Miletus, on the coast of Caria, some 30 miles south of Ephesus. Avoiding on purpose a visit to Ephesus, where in so large a Christian community causes for delay would inevitably have arisen 1 1 See Prof. Lumby’s notes on Acts 20 in this Series. , he sent for the presbyters (called episcopi , ver. 28) of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, and there addressed to them the pathetic and noble “charge” recorded by St Luke, Acts 20:18-35 . We point out elsewhere (p. 32) some resemblances between the Charge and the Epistle. Here it is enough to say that this remarkable passage in the Acts is specially interesting as indicating the early organization of the Christian ministry at Ephesus, a fact only remotely suggested in the Epistle; and as supplying an interior view of the persistency, thoroughness, and profound affection and earnestness of the Apostle’s personal work in the city.
We hear no more of Ephesus till near the close of St Paul’s life, the period of the “Pastoral Epistles.” Probably in a.d. 63 1 1 This is not the place to examine the date of the Pastorals. To us it seems certain that they are the work of St Paul’s latest years, and of a period following the imprisonment at Rome recorded Acts 28. we find him (1 Timothy 1:3 ) exhorting Timothy to “stay on at Ephesus,” when Paul himself was on the way to Macedonia. And Timothy’s work was to be, besides the superintendence of church order, the correction of a type of false doctrine, in the outline of which we can detect the same combination of Judaistic and theosophic elements which seems to have formed the “heresy of Colossæ” when our Epistle and that to the Colossians were written 2 2 See further, p. 20. . Ephesus is twice named in 2 Timothy , the Apostle’s last letter. He speaks (1:18) of the Ephesian Onesiphorus as having “served him in many things” at Ephesus; possibly during the long stay of three years, possibly during the later visit indicated 1 Tim. 1:3 3 3 Very possibly St Paul was seized at Ephesus and carried thence to his death at Rome. Onesiphorus may have done him loving service at that crisis. . And finally (4:12) he says that he has “sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” We cannot know why this was done. Perhaps the “beloved brother and faithful minister” of Ephesians 6:21 was dismissed by the Apostle from the dangerous duty of personal attendance on the way to Rome, in order to return to Ephesus, there to build up and encourage the now endangered Church.
Ephesus is mentioned twice more in the N. T.; Revelation 1:11 , Revelation 2:1 . We cannot here discuss the question, who and what were the “Angels of the Churches.” But on any theory the Epistle to the Ephesian Angel is addressed by implication to the Ephesian Church also, and it is deeply interesting to gather from the words of the glorified Lord 1 1 Surely we are bound by the explicit language of the Seven Epistles to read them as His direct words, in a sense altogether peculiar. what was the spiritual condition of that Church at the distance of about a generation 2 2 See Abp Trench, Epistles to the Seven Churches , p. 78. from the date of St Paul’s writing. The merits and the faults are alike those of a highly enlightened and mature community, deeply taught in Divine truth and jealous for its purity, but allowing the chill to which a traditional faith, however exalted in its creed and theory, is liable, to infect their love to Christ. It is instructive to remember how amply the Pauline Epistle had provided the Ephesians with the antidote (ch. 3:14 21) to this decline of love, while labouring for their fullest apprehension of the great theory of truth.
See further, on the Apocalyptic Epistle, p. 33.
“Asia” appears among the regions of our Asia Minor, 1 Peter 1:1 . The passage suggests that St Peter, as well as St Paul, worked as an Apostle in the countries indicated. But his headquarters appear to have been in the extreme east, not west, of the great district (ch. 5:13). Not with St Peter but with St John do we find Ephesus itself connected in the latest apostolic history; as the reference to the Epistles of the Revelation has already reminded us. Whatever there may be of mere legend in the stories of St John’s old age, we may be quite reasonably sure that Ephesus was the abode of his last years, the scene of his influence on Polycarp, Ignatius, and Papias, and the place of his burial. Here, probably, his Gospel and his Epistles were written, and, within sixty miles of the Ephesian coast, the Revelation.
Ephesus long remained the seat of a Christian Church, and was the place of the great Christian Council (a. d. 431) which dealt with the heresy of Nestorius. Eighteen years later it was the scene of the “Robber Synod,” an assembly occasioned by controversies indirectly connected with the same heresy, and specially infamous for the outrageous violence of the dominant party.
The Bishop of Ephesus, at the end of cent. 4, bore the title of Exarch (or Grand Metropolitan) of Asia; but the Patriarch of Constantinople ultimately annexed the primacy of Asia.
Ephesus, after a long gradual decline, is now an almost total solitude. A small Turkish village, Ayasaluk (a corruption of Hagios Theologos , the Holy Divine, St John), stands upon a part of the site.
For further particulars of Ephesus, or Asia, or both, see Smith’s Dictionaries, of Classical Geography and of the Bible ; Falkener’s Ephesus ; Lewin’s Life and Epistles of St Paul , vol 1., ch. 13, with the Addenda , pp. xxii, xxiii; and especially J. T. Wood’s Discoveries at Ephesus .
st paul at rome: occasion and date of the epistle
St Paul arrived in Rome, from Melita, in the spring of a.d. 61, probably early in March. There he spent “two full years” (Acts 28:30 ), at the close of which, as we have good reason to believe, he was released.
In the long delay before his trial 1 1 Due probably to procrastination in the prosecution and to the caprice of the Emperor. See Lewin, vol. 11. p. 236, for a parallel case. he was of course in custody; but this was comparatively lenient. He occupied lodgings of his own (Acts 28:16 , Acts 28:23 , Acts 28:30 ), probably a storey or flat in one of the lofty houses common in Rome. It is impossible to determine for certain where in the City this lodging was, but it is likely that it was either in or near the great Camp of the Prætorians, or Imperial Guard, outside the Colline Gate, just N.E. of the City 2 2 See Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 9 &c. 99 &c. . In this abode the Apostle was attached day and night by a light coupling-chain to a Prætorian sentinel, but was as free, apparently, to invite and maintain general intercourse as if he had been merely confined by illness.
The company actually found in his rooms at different times was very various. His first visitors (indeed they must have been the providers of his lodging) would be the Roman Christians, including all, or many, of the saints named in a passage (Romans 16:0 ) written only a very few years before. Then came the representatives of the Jewish community (Acts 28:17 , Acts 28:23 ), but apparently never to return, as such, after the long day of discussion to which they were first invited. Then from time to time would come Christian brethren, envoys from distant Churches, or personal friends; Epaphroditus from Philippi, Aristarchus from Thessalonica, Tychicus from Ephesus, Epaphras from Colossæ, John Mark, Demas, Jesus Justus. Luke, the beloved physician, was present perhaps always, and Timotheus, the Apostle’s spiritual son, very frequently. One other memorable name occurs, Onesimus, the fugitive Colossian slave, whose story, indicated in the Epistle to Philemon, is at once a striking evidence of the perfect liberty of access to the prisoner granted to anyone and everyone, and a beautiful illustration both of the character of St Paul and the transfiguring power and righteous principles of the Gospel.
No doubt the visitors to this obscure but holy lodging were far more miscellaneous than even this list suggests. Through the successive Prætorian sentinels some knowledge of the character and message of the prisoner would be always passing out. The right interpretation of Phil. 1:13 1 1 See Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 99 &c. is, beyond reasonable doubt, that the true account of Paul’s imprisonment came to be “known in the Prætorian regiments, and generally among people around”; and Philippians 4:22 indicates that a body of earnest and affectionate converts had arisen among the population of slaves and freedmen attached to the Palace of Nero. And the wording of that passage suggests that such Christians found a welcome meeting place in the rooms of the Apostle; doubtless for frequent worship, doubtless also for direct instruction, and for the blessed enjoyments of the family affection of the Gospel. Meanwhile (Philippians 1:15 , Philippians 1:16 ) there was a section of the Roman Christian community, probably the disciples infected with the prejudices of the Pharisaic party (see Acts 15:0 , &c.), who, with very few exceptions (see Colossians 4:11 and notes), took sooner or later a position of trying antagonism to St Paul; a trial over which he triumphed in the deep peace of Christ.
It is an interesting possibility, not to say probability, that from time to time the lodging was visited by inquirers of intellectual fame or distinguished rank. Ancient Christian tradition 1 1 The first hint appears in Tertullian, cent. 2 3. actually makes the renowned Stoic writer, L. Annæus Seneca, tutor and counsellor of Nero, a convert of St Paul’s; and one phase of the legend was the fabrication, within the first four centuries, of a correspondence between the two. It is quite certain that Seneca was never a Christian, though his language is full of startling superficial parallels to that of the N.T., and most full in his latest writings. But it is at least very likely that he heard, through his many channels of information, of St Paul’s existence and presence, and that he was intellectually interested in his teaching; and it is quite possible that he cared to visit him. It is not improbable, surely, that Seneca’s brother Gallio (Acts 18:12 ) may have described St Paul, however passingly, in a letter; for Gallio’s religious indifference may quite well have consisted with a strong personal impression made on him by St Paul’s bearing. Festus himself was little interested in the Gospel, or at least took care to seem so, and yet was deeply impressed by the personnel of the Apostle. And, again, the Prefect of the Imperial Guard, a.d. 61, was Afranius Burrus, Seneca’s intimate colleague as counsellor to Nero, and it is at least possible that he had received from Festus a more than commonplace description of the prisoner consigned to him 2 2 We cannot but think that Bp Lightfoot ( Philippians , p. 301) somewhat underrates the probability that Gallio and Burrus should have given Seneca an interest in St Paul. .
Bp Lightfoot, in his Essay, “St Paul and Seneca” ( Philippians , pp. 270, &c.), thinks it possible to trace in some of the Epistles of the Captivity a Christian adaptation of Stoic ideas. The Stoic, for example, made much of the individual’s membership in the great Body of the Universe, and citizenship in its great City. The connexion suggested is interesting, and it falls quite within the methods of Divine inspiration that materials of Scripture imagery should be collected from a secular region. But the language of St Paul about the Mystical Body, in the Ephesian Epistle particularly, reads far more like a direct revelation than like an adaptation; and it evidently deals with a truth which is already, in its substance, perfectly familiar to the readers 1 1 It appears in the First Ep. to the Corinthians, written a few years before the Ep. to the Ephesians. See 1 Cor. 12. .
Other conspicuous personages of Roman society at the time have been reckoned by tradition among the chamber-converts of St Paul, among them the poet Lucan and the Stoic philosopher Epictetus 2 2 For the curiously Christian tone of Epictetus’ writings here and there, see Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 313 &c. The Manual of Epictetus is a book of gold in its own way, but still that way is not Christian. . But there is absolutely no evidence for these assertions. It is interesting and suggestive, on the other hand, to recall one almost certain case of conversion about this time within the highest Roman aristocracy. Pomponia Græcina, wife of Plautius the conqueror of Britain, was accused (a.d. 57, probably), of “foreign superstition,” and tried by her husband as domestic judge. He acquitted her. But the deep and solemn seclusion of her life (a seclusion begun a.d. 44 when her friend the princess Julia was put to death, and continued unbroken till her own death, about a.d. 84), taken in connexion with the charge, as in all likelihood it was, of Christianity, “suggests that, shunning society, she sought consolation in the duties and hopes of the Gospel” 3 3 Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , p. 21. , leaving for ever the splendour and temptations of the world of Rome. She was not a convert, obviously, of St Paul’s; but her case suggests the possibility of other similar cases.
At what time of the Two Years the Epistle to the Ephesians was written, we cannot hope to determine with precision. It is a prevalent theory that the Ephesian and Colossian Epistles date somewhat early in the period, and the Philippians late. Bp Lightfoot ( Philippians , pp. 30, &c.) has given some strong reasons for the reversal of the order. The strongest, in our view, is the consideration of style in the respective Epistles. The Philippian Epistle, so far as it is dogmatic, approaches certainly much nearer to the type of the Roman than the Ephesian does; and this suggests a comparative nearness in date. The test of style demands caution, certainly, in its application, in the case of a writer of such compass and versatility as St Paul; circumstances might suggest similarity of subject to his mind at widely dissimilar times, and the subject rather than the time would rule the style, within certain limits. But in this case we have further to observe that the style of the Ephesian Group (so to call it) is manifestly, in some aspects, a new style, and charged with dogmatic materials in many respects new. And this suggests at least the probability of an interval between the Roman and Ephesian Epistles as long as the chronology will reasonably allow.
We may conjecture that it was at some time in a.d. 62, perhaps even early in a.d. 63, that the Ephesian Epistle, with its companion Epistles, was written. Epaphras had arrived from Asia, and Tychicus was ready to travel thither, with Onesimus. The news from Asia had conveyed encouragement and anxiety at once. Life and love were abundant in the Churches. But a subtle danger was abroad, in the form of a pseudo-Christian teaching in which were blended ritual Judaism and a theosophy from the further East, dealing much with unhealthy theories of body and spirit, and with hierarchies of angelic powers set in the place due to Christ alone. With this error the Apostle deals explicitly in the Colossian Epistle, in which we can surely see, in some respects, the sketch or germ of the Ephesian 1 1 See further, p. 32. . In writing to the Ephesians he is not unconscious of this special need, which seems to give point to his repeated allusions to the spiritual hierarchies, good and evil, and their relation to Christ. But he was guided to make of his Ephesian Letter far more than the treatment of a single phase of truth. As in the Romans , so here, he addresses himself to the mighty theme of the whole Gospel; from the point of view not now of the justification of the saints but of their life in and union with their Redeeming Head, and the consequent oneness of the whole organism of the true Church in time and in eternity. Faithful to the genius of the Gospel, he applies these transcendent truths with great minuteness to the realities of common life, especially that of the Christian Home.
Some scholars, notably Meyer, have placed the Ephesian and its companion Epistles in the two years’ imprisonment at Cœsarea Stratonis (Acts 24:23-27 ). But the reasons for this date (which may be seen carefully stated in Alford’s 1 1 Alford controverts them with convincing force. See also Harless’ Commentary on the Epistle, Einleitung , pp. lxii, &c. Prolegomena to the Ephesians ) are met by some obvious considerations which seem to us altogether conclusive. The Roman imprisonment, far more than the Cæsarean, was a time likely à priori to be one of stimulated energy and administrative as well as doctrinal action on the Apostle’s part. And the language used in the Philippians about the progress of the Gospel in the Imperial Guard and Household points almost in so many words to Rome. And if this be so, and if it is granted, as it is, that the Philippians and Ephesians are not to be dated far apart, and above all if it is granted that the Philippians is the earlier Epistle, the Ephesians must be assigned of course to the Roman captivity. For this conclusion Bp Lightfoot decides without reserve.
It may not be uninteresting to enumerate briefly some events of Roman secular history which fall within, or nearly within, the two years of St Paul’s residence at Rome.
a.d. 61. Boadicea revolts in Britain; 70,000 Romans and allies perish, and, in the suppression of the revolt, 80,000 Britons.
Pedanius Secundus, a senator of Rome, is murdered by one of his slaves. As the legal consequence 400 slaves, the number under the master’s roof at the time, are put to death.
Agrippa (the Agrippa of Acts 25:0 ) raises the structure of his palace at Jerusalem so as to command a view of the Temple courts. The Jews raise a counter-wall. Festus orders its demolition. The Jews send an embassy to Rome, which is successful by the favour of Nero’s mistress Poppæa, a proselyte.
Festus dies, and is succeeded in Judæa by Albinus.
a.d. 62. Afranius Burrus, Prætorian Prefect, dies. This begins the decline of the influence of his colleague Seneca, who is compelled to retire into private life. Nero is more than ever his own master.
Tigellinus, the Emperor’s favourite, becomes the supreme influence at court.
Octavia, Nero’s wife, is divorced, and soon after put to death. Before her death Nero’s concubine Poppæa is made his wife.
The High Priest Ananus procures, at Jerusalem, the martyrdom of St James the Just (the James of Acts 25:0 ). The Roman Governor Albinus, appealed to by the moderate Jewish party, reprimands the High Priest. It appears that the High Priest possessed no power of life and death without the Procurator’s sanction.
The Quinquennium of Nero, the first five years of his reign, during which, under good advice and guidance, the Empire had been singularly happy, had closed about three years before St Paul’s Roman residence.
authenticity of the epistle
There is no trace in early Christian literature of doubt about the authenticity of the Epistle. Not to enumerate more passing references, St Irenœus (cent. 2), quotes ch. 5:30 as the words of “the beatified Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians,” and ch. 5:13 as “the words of Paul”; St Clement of Alexandria (cent. 3), quotes inter alia ch. 4:21 25, as St Paul’s; and Tertullian (cent. 2 3) names ( de Præscriptione , c. 36) Ephesus among the Churches which possess original apostolic (and, by context, Pauline) Epistles.
To give further detail would be needless, as there is absolutely no adverse ancient voice on the authorship and authority of the Epistle. We only add, for the great interest of the passage, the possible allusion to this Epistle by St Ignatius (early cent. 2) in his Ep. to the Ephesians, ch. 12. The passage, undoubtedly genuine, admits of translation either thus: “Ye are initiated into mysteries with Paul, … who in every part of his letter makes mention of you in Christ Jesus”; or thus: “… who in every letter makes mention &c.” The former rendering is advocated by Dean Alford, and by Prof. Westcott ( Canon of the N.T. , ed. 1866, p. 44 note), the latter by Bp Lightfoot in his recent edition of St Ignatius. In our view the rendering “ in every Epistle ” is preferable, for the reason that (being abundantly safe grammatically) it is somewhat nearer to the facts. It is scarcely the case that St Paul “mentions” the Church he addresses, in any unusual way , “in every part of” our Epistle; while it is remarkable that he does “mention” Ephesian Christians in the Romans , 1 and 2 Corinthians , and 1 and 2 Timothy; often enough to account for the phrase “in every Epistle” in a rather hyperbolic passage.
In quite modern times doubt has been cast on the authorship, by some great critics of the liberal school in Germany. De Wette took it to be an amplification of the Epistle to the Colossians 1 1 An argument in this direction has been drawn from the words “ If ye have heard ” (3:2), which, it is alleged, could not have been naturally written by St Paul. But an able imitator would instinctively avoid just such a verbal difficulty. by an imitator in the apostolic age; Baur, to be full of Gnostic thought and phraseology proving it to belong to a time when Gnosticism was developed, and to be the work of a writer of Gnostic tendencies. It is surely reply enough to both lines of attack to say, “ Take up and read ” 2 2 “To all such difficulties there is the one sweeping reply, that no one but St Paul could have been the writer.” Howson, Character of St Paul , p. 146, note. . Few indeed must be the readers who, whatever their view of the dogmatic authority of the Epistle, will not recognize in it the thought and diction of a mighty master. And who, with any knowledge of Gnostic theory and practice, will believe that an Epistle so full of humbling precepts for the conduct of daily life in common homes, to mention that feature only of the Epistle, could have come from a Gnostic quarter? 1 1 M. Renan, in the Introduction to his Saint Paul , discusses the character and authorship of the Epistle at some length. He wavers, apparently, between the alternatives that it is a fabrication based on the Colossians , and that it is a letter written, under St Paul’s eye, by Tychicus, or more likely Timothy, as a circular for the Asiatic churches. He does not hesitate to call it “ une Épître banale ”, a very mediocre, almost a vulgar, Epistle, and to describe its style as “diffuse, nerveless, loaded with repetitions and useless words, entangled with foreign incidental matter, full of pleonasms and confusion.” On the other hand he is prepared to regard it as forming, with the Colossians , “a pendant to the Romans , as a sort of theological exposition intended to be transmitted by way of circular to the different churches founded by the Apostle.” ( Saint Paul , Introduction, pp. xviii, &c.)
The Epistle is both sublimely and practically Christian. It is the work of a writer whose intellect and affections were of the highest order. His words have proved an inexhaustible mine of spiritual truth and light for eighteen centuries in every branch of the Christian Church. But the extant writings of the Fathers of the first two centuries, to say the least, shew no trace of the existence among them of such a personage as would be thus required, on the theory that the Epistle is not St Paul’s. It seems needless to say more, unless to remark that a very deliberate fabrication is inconceivable, on any reasonable moral theory, in the case of a writer who was at once of a high type of mental character and emphatically earnest in the inculcation of absolute truthfulness.
in what sense was the epistle addressed to the ephesians?
This question arises immediately out of the critical problem of ch. 1:1, where see the note. And the answer will be best given in the form of a discussion of that problem.
What, then, is the evidence, favourable and adverse, about the presence in the original Epistle, ch. 1:1, of the words “ at Ephesus ”?
A. Evidence for omission:
a. External: Two uncial Gr. MSS. (only two, but both of the greatest importance) B א (cent. 4), shew no trace of the words. One cursive MS. (67 of St Paul’s Epp., cent. 12), as corrected by a later scribe, omits them. The reading of such copies has to be rendered, “To the saints that are, and to the faithful, &c.,” or, just possibly 1 1 This is suggested in the admirable statement of the case in Westcott and Hort’s N.T. in Greek , 11. 124. But surely the improbability is great. , “To the saints that are also faithful, &c.” Besides this MS. evidence there is much more considerable evidence for omission in the way of patristic quotations and allusions. The earliest witness (an indirect one) is Tertullian (cent. 2 3), who states ( adv. Marcion. v. 11, 17) that “the heretics,” i.e. the Marcionite Gnostics, certainly Marcion himself, tampered with ( interpolare ) the title, reading To the Laodiceans before the Epistle which the Church knew as To the Ephesians . This certainly suggests the high probability that copies existed in cent. 2 which did not contain the disputed words in ver. 1; and although Marcion was a ruthless and most uncritical emendator, or rather lacerator, of the Scripture text, it is not likely that he was guilty here, where the change would have served no dogmatic purpose. All that Tertullian asserts is that he changed the title . Would he have done this, or would Tertullian have said no more of it, if “ at Ephesus ” had notoriously stood in ver. 1? Again, Origen (cent. 3), in a fragment, quotes this verse as presenting the phrase, absolutely, “the saints that are ,” and conjectures that it indicates the truth that in Christ believers have attained real being , as partakers of the Life of the I am. St Basil the Great (cent. 4) alludes to the shorter reading as “handed down by those before us,” and as “found by himself in the more ancient copies.” And he remarks on the absolute phrase in the same sense as Origen’s, and perhaps with allusion to his opinion. To the same interpretation St Jerome (cent. 5) alludes in his commentary on the verse, describing it as more recondite ( curiosius ) than was necessary. In the context, indeed, he says that some think the reading to be “to them that are at Ephesus .” But St Jerome’s received text must have run otherwise.
These facts leave the impression, on the whole, that an uncertainty, to say the least, attached very early and very widely indeed to the two words. Renan boldly says, “The words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ were inserted towards the end of cent. 4” ( Saint Paul , Introd., p. xvi).
And to turn now to
b. Internal Evidence: it is plain that the Epistle does not bear an Ephesian destination on the face of it. Only one Christian’s name occurs, Tychicus (6:21), besides St Paul’s own. The salutations are of the most general kind, and the topics of the Epistle the highest and least local. The obvious connexion of the contents with those of the Colossian Epistle, and the name Tychicus in both Epistles, fix the destination to Roman Asia, but scarcely to a narrower area. This phenomenon is the more noticeable when St Paul’s peculiarly intimate and prolonged relations with Ephesus are considered. And the suggestion has been made accordingly 1 1 First by Abp Ussher (cent. 17), Annales N. T. , a. m. 4068. that the Epistle is a Circular, an Encyclical, designed perhaps for the Churches of Asia Proper, if not for a wider range; and that we have a probable allusion to it in Colossians 4:16 , where observe the wording, “The Epistle” not “ to ,” but “ from, Laodicea;” a phrase well suited to a circular upon its round. If so, it is suggested, the letter may have left Rome with an unfilled blank, so to speak, after the words “ which are ,” a blank which Tychicus would fill up for various Churches as copies were made and carried to them. And the pre-eminence of Ephesus in its Province would readily explain how the address “ to Ephesus ” in one copy, or some copies, came to be thought the sole address of the Epistle.
B. Evidence for retention:
a. External: Every known MS. (in its uncorrected form), save two, reads “ at Ephesus .” So does every ancient Version (the oldest Syriac version is of cent. 2), a most important class of witnesses in a case like this. Every known MS. again, without exception, reads “ To the Ephesians ” as the title of the Epistle, and though this does not carry direct proof higher than early in cent. 4, it practically proves a much older tradition; a tradition, as we have already seen, which to Tertullian appeared to be broken only by Marcion’s “tampering.” And it is most remarkable that no hint appears anywhere, unless in the case of Marcion’s opinion, that the Epistle was ever claimed by any other Church, or by the collective Churches of Asia. As against the suggestion that St Paul, designing the Epistle to be an Asiatic Circular, left out the name of any Church in the very place where in other Epistles a name is found, it may fairly be asked whether it is not far more likely that he would have written, in such a case, “ in Asia ,” or, “ in the Churches of Asia .” Cp. 2 Corinthians 1:1 ; Galatians 1:2 .
b. Internal: Here we can say little but what is negative. Some may find a local reference to the Ephesian Temple in the great passage at the close of ch. 2. But surely to the Hebrew Apostle’s mind one Temple, and one only, the House of the Messiah’s Father at Jerusalem, would be allowed to suggest such imagery in such a connexion. And this apart, there is literally no trace of “local colouring.” But on the other hand, the very greatness of the Ephesian Church and the vast area of the influence which St Paul had exerted from it (Acts 19:0 ) lessen the unlikelihood that he should have dealt wholly with the highest and most permanent topics while yet, in the first place, addressing Ephesus.
One interesting piece of evidence on this side, halfway between the external and internal, may be seen in the long and remarkable Epistle to the Ephesians, written (about a. d. 110) by the martyr St Ignatius. Several passages in that Epistle read like allusions to St Paul’s Epistle, and, if so, raise some probability that this Epistle was regarded by Ignatius as written to Ephesus . We subjoin the Ignatian passages which seem to us to be fairly in point 1 1 See further Bp Lightfoot’s Ignatius &c. vol. 11. pp. 15 89; and on an important passage in St Ignatius’ Epistle, ch. 12 see above, p. 23. .
(1) Ch. 1. “Ignatius … to the Church blest in greatness, by the fulness ( plerôma ) of God the Father, predestinated before the worlds ( aiônes ) to be always unto abiding and unchangeable glory, joined in one and chosen in the true Passion in the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God, &c.” Cp. generally Ephesians 1:1-11 , Ephesians 1:3 :19, &c.
(2) Ch. 9. “[Ye are] stones of the temple, prepared beforehand for the abode of God the Father, &c.” Cp. Ephesians 2:22 .
(3) Ch. 13. “In peace is annulled all war of celestial and terrestrial enemies;” i.e., apparently, Christian concord is an antidote to the attacks of evil spirits and evil men. The word here rendered “celestial” is the same as that rendered “heavenly,” Ephesians 6:12 ; see note there.
(4) Ch. 15. “Let us do all things as (remembering that) He dwelleth in us, that we may be His temples and He may be the God in us.” Cp. Ephesians 3:17 .
(5) Ch. 17. “The Prince of this world ( aiôn ).” Cp. Ephesians 2:2 .
(6) Ch. 20. “I will further expound to you the dispensation (stewardship) concerning the New Man, Jesus Christ.” Cp. Ephesians 1:10 , Ephesians 4:24 , and notes in this latter place. To us this Ignatian passage is confirmatory of the reference there (advocated in those notes) to Christ as the “New Man.”
(7) Ibid. “Ye all meet together in one faith and in one Jesus Christ.” Cp. Ephesians 4:5 .
On reviewing the evidence, it is plain that the true theory must embrace the phenomena, on the one hand, of a very early variation in the reading of 1:1, and of the non-local tone of the Epistle; on the other hand, of the universal tradition of its destination to Ephesus, and the immense documentary evidence for it, and the total absence of any serious rival claim. In constructing such a theory it will be useful to remember, what is indicated by the Acts , that the City stood in the closest possible relation to the Province, both politically and in regard of St Paul’s three years’ work (see above, pp. 10 12). Ephesus, more than many another Metropolis, may well have represented its Province to the writer’s mind.
We believe that the facts are fairly met by the view that St Paul actually addressed the Epistle, in its first words, “to the saints that are at Ephesus,” but designing it also for the other Asian Churches, and that the transcripts dispersed through the Province frequently omitted this precise original address accordingly, but without introducing any other. It was well understood to be the property of Ephesus, but in trust for the Province.
See further on Colossians 4:16 . We have there a very probable reference to this Epistle; but it will be better to discuss the question there.
parallels between the epistle to the ephesians and the epistle to the colossians
The parallelism of the two Epistles can be fully appreciated only through the comparative study of both the details and the whole of each; a study which will also bring out many important differences between the points of view and modes of treatment in the two. In the following table all that is offered is a view of the chief doctrinal parallels, and a few out of the very many instances of parallelism of subject, or expression, not necessarily connected with doctrine.
1. Christ the Head of the Church:
Ephesians 1:22 , Ephesians 4:15 , Ephesians 5:23 = Colossians 1:18 , Colossians 2:19 .
This view of the Lord’s position and function is practically confined to these Epistles.
2. Christ supreme over angelic powers:
Ephesians 1:21 = Colossians 2:10 .
3. The Church Christ’s Body:
Ephesians 1:23 , Ephesians 1:4 :12, Ephesians 1:5 :23, 30, &c. = Colossians 1:18 , Colossians 1:24 .
4. Articulation and nourishment of the Body:
Ephesians 4:16 = Colossians 2:19 .
The imagery is peculiar to these Epistles.
5. Growth of the Body:
Ephesians 4:16 = Colossians 2:19 .
6. The Body one:
Ephesians 2:16 , Ephesians 4:4 = Colossians 3:15 .
7. Christians once dead in sin:
Ephesians 2:1 , Ephesians 2:5 = Colossians 2:13 .
8. Once alienated from God and grace:
Ephesians 2:12 , Ephesians 4:18 = Colossians 1:21 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
9. Once in darkness:
Ephesians 4:18 , Ephesians 5:8 = Colossians 1:13 .
10. Now risen with Christ:
Ephesians 2:6 = Colossians 2:12 , Colossians 3:1 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
11. Made alive with Christ:
Ephesians 2:5 = Colossians 2:13 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
12. Reconciled through the Death of Christ:
Ephesians 2:13-16 = Colossians 1:20 , Colossians 1:21 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
13. Redeemed, in the sense of pardon of sin, in Christ:
Ephesians 1:7 = Colossians 1:14 .
The exact phrase is peculiar to these Epistles.
14. In the light:
Eph. 5:8, 9 1 1 See note on ver. 9. = Colossians 1:12 .
15. Rooted in Christ :
Ephesians 3:17 = Colossians 2:7 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
16. Built up as a structure:
Ephesians 2:20 = Colossians 2:7 .
17. On a foundation:
Ephesians 3:17 = Colossians 1:23 .
18. Spiritually filled:
Ephesians 1:23 , Ephesians 3:19 , Ephesians 5:18 = Colossians 1:9 , Colossians 2:10 .
19. The Fulness:
Ephesians 1:23 , Ephesians 3:19 = Colossians 1:19 , Colossians 2:9 .
20. The Old Man and the New Man:
Ephesians 4:22-24 = Colossians 3:9 , Colossians 3:10 .
21. Similar classes of sins reproved:
Ephesians 4:2 , Ephesians 4:3 = Colossians 3:12-14 .
Ephesians 4:25 , Ephesians 5:5 = Colossians 3:5-8 .
22. The wrath of God coming:
Ephesians 5:6 = Colossians 3:6 .
23. The duties of home enforced, in the same order and similar words:
Ephesians 5:22-9 = Colossians 3:18-1 .
24. The Walk of sin:
Ephesians 2:2 , Ephesians 4:17 = Colossians 3:7 .
25. The Walk of holiness:
Ephesians 2:10 , Ephesians 2:4 :1, Ephesians 2:5 :2, Ephesians 2:8 , Ephesians 2:15 = Colossians 1:10 , Colossians 2:6 , Colossians 4:5 .
26. Redemption of opportunity:
Ephesians 5:16 = Colossians 4:5 .
The phrase is peculiar to these Epistles.
27. Spiritual songs:
Ephesians 5:19 = Colossians 3:16 .
This precept is peculiar to these Epistles.
28. Prayer and intercession:
Ephesians 6:18 = Colossians 4:2 .
29. The Mystery revealed:
Ephesians 1:9 , Ephesians 1:3 :3, Ephesians 1:4 , Ephesians 1:9 , Ephesians 1:6 :19 = Colossians 1:26 , Colossians 1:27 , Colossians 1:2 :2, Colossians 1:4 :3.
Ephesians 1:7 , Ephesians 1:18 , Ephesians 1:2 :7, Ephesians 1:3 :8, Ephesians 1:16 = Colossians 1:27 , Colossians 2:2 .
31. Ages and generations:
Ephesians 3:21 = Colossians 1:26 .
“Generation” occurs, in St Paul, only in these Epistles and the Philippians .
32. The word of truth:
Ephesians 1:13 = Colossians 1:5 .
33. Character and commission of Tychicus:
Ephesians 6:21 = Colossians 4:7 .
Many other parallels, more or less exact, can be collected. Meanwhile it will be observed, from the above table, that the distribution of the points of likeness is, so to speak, complicated and capricious in many instances. A study of this phenomenon will fully refute the conjecture (see pp. 23, 24) that the Ephesian Epistle is an elaborate and artificial expansion of the Colossian, by a personator of St Paul.
the charge of st paul to the ephesian elders: the epistles to timothy: the apocalyptic epistle to the ephesian angel
In the Milesian Charge (Acts 20:18-35 ) a few similarities of expression to the Ephesian Epistle may be traced:
α . “ With all lowliness of mind: ”
Acts 20:19 = Ephesians 4:2 .
The precise phrase does not occur elsewhere.
β . The Divine counsel :
Acts 20:27 = Ephesians 1:11 .
The word “counsel,” with reference to the Divine Plan, occurs nowhere else in the Pauline Epistles (not reckoning Hebrews 6:17 ).
γ . Divine ability :
Acts 20:32 = Ephesians 3:20 .
δ . Building upon :
Acts 20:32 = Ephesians 2:20 .
ε . The inheritance of the saints :
Acts 20:32 = Ephesians 1:14 , Ephesians 1:18 .
The two Epistles to St Timothy (dated by Dr Howson a.d. 67, a.d. 68, respectively) are in a sense Epistles to Ephesus, for the recipient was the Apostle’s delegate there for superintendence of doctrine, life, and organization. But it is difficult to trace any distinct resemblances in these Epistles to the surroundings indicated in our Epistle, except in the probable allusions (1 Timothy 1:4 , 1 Timothy 6:20 ) to the growth of Judaic Gnôsis (see above, ch. 2). Doctrinal parallels with our Epistle can be seen here and there; e. g. 2 Timothy 1:9 , 2 Timothy 1:10 , 2 Timothy 1:2 :1. But they are scarcely significant.
In the Epistle to the Ephesian Angel (Revelation 2:1-7 ) we may perhaps trace a reference not to our Epistle but to its spiritual purpose, in the words, “Thou hast left thy first love.” In no Pauline Epistle is the experience of the Divine Love, and its result in the saint’s walk of love, so fully in view as in the Ephesian. It may not be wholly fanciful to see in this searching reproof of the glorified Lord a word specially appropriate to the Church where, a generation before, such teaching and such experience had had a special place. See further, p. 14.
argument of the epistle
Ch. 1:1 2. Paul, a divinely commissioned messenger of Jesus Christ, greets the Christians of Ephesus, invoking blessing on them from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 14. He gives adoring thanks to God the Father, as he contemplates the origin and issues of the salvation of the Church; its possession of all the gifts of Divine Love in Christ, consequent upon a pre-mundane Choice and Appointment to acceptance and adoption in Him, and secured by the possession in Him, as the atoning Sacrifice, of actual Redemption, in the sense of Remission. This Divine Plan and Work is now at length unveiled to the illuminated minds of the saints, who are permitted to know that Christ is the predestined Head of a Church one and universal, the crown of the purposes of God; in which Church both writer and readers have now found their appointed place, on their way to the consummation in which God will be glorified in those who shall have believed. In Christ the Ephesians now thus stand, having entered into union with Him by faith, faith verified by the presence of spiritual gifts; yea, by that Holy Spirit Himself who is the pledge of the full and glorious realization of Redemption.
15 23. In view of such position and possessions, and of the good report of the Ephesians’ actual life in Christ, he prays incessantly for a development in them of Divine light, love, and hope; especially, that they may enter more deeply into the eternal prospect, the sequel of present grace, measuring its glorious hope by the power exercised in the Resurrection of their Lord, raised by the Father from the dead to the supreme Throne itself, there to preside with absolute lordship over all angelic powers for ever, to be the universal Conqueror, and to be Head of the living organism of His true Church, His Body, filled in all its parts with Him, and itself, with Him, the embodiment of the ideal of the grace of God.
Ch. 2:1 10. [As an example of the ways of grace, he dwells on the regeneration of the Ephesians in particular.] They once were spiritually dead, following the tendencies of fallen humanity and the leading of the great personal Evil Spirit, master of an invisible system of evil agencies, and powerful still in men who reject God. Yes, such had been the position of the writer and the readers; they had lived willingly the life whose law [in the true analysis] is self, (whether manifested in grosser modes or not), and they had stood exposed, by the very condition of their nature [antecedent to all outcome in act] to the Wrath of God. Thus once spiritually dead, they had been raised by an act of sovereign love, and not raised only, but, (in virtue of their life and interest in the now ascended Christ,) exalted to the sphere of glory, and destined to be monuments of eternal kindness in the great ages to come. Gratuitous indeed that Kindness is! Salvation, including the faith that accepts it, is the gift of God. The believer, in his new life in Christ, is God’s creation; and his path of service is altogether God’s plan.
11 22. This wonderful salvation is most wonderful of all, in view of the antecedent position of the Ephesians as non-Israelites. Pharisaic contempt for “the uncircumcised,” [however false in spirit,] was yet an index of the fact that apart from incorporation into Israel there is no true connexion with the commonwealth, the covenant, the hope, the life, of God. This connexion has been now effected for them, by their incorporation into Christ, the great Covenant Sacrifice. He has brought Jew and Gentile together, in Himself, in one developed and true Israel, [the old Israel and yet another,] one New Race; annulling the ancient antipathy by altering the relations of both parties to the Law through His atoning Death, and by uniting them to Himself the Risen Lord, the Messenger of peace [with one another, because of peace with God]. Through Him equally, with equal gifts and graces of the Spirit, they now approach the Eternal as His covenant children. The Ephesian believers are no mere resident aliens [in the mystic Jerusalem], but lawful citizens at home. They are integral parts in the great Temple of the true Church, based on apostolic doctrine, and held together in living coherence by Jesus Christ as the great angle-stone [in which the lines of structure meet]; Him, in vital contact with Whom the whole vast building, ever rising, ever more profoundly cohering, prepares for its eternal destiny as the Sanctuary of the Presence of God. Into such a structure the Ephesians are being incorporated, and for such a purpose, under the Spirit’s power.
Ch. 3:1 13. [The Apostle is about to dilate on the Divine Indwelling in the spiritual Temple, but the mention of his commission to the Gentiles leads him to a digression.] He appeals to the acquaintance of his readers with his special work as an inspired and empowered “steward of the mystery” already indicated, the secret long kept, now at last revealed, of the full and true incorporation of Gentile believers into Christ (Messiah) and His Promise. Yes, entirely unworthy in himself, he has yet been chosen to unfold to the Gentiles the labyrinth of the wealth of Christ; to throw the broad light of a mighty proclamation on the now ample distribution of the long-hidden blessings of the world-wide Gospel; a distribution designed to illustrate even to the angelic world, in accordance with the great progressive Plan of Redemption, the Divine wisdom [in its dealings with the problem of human sin]. In Christ that Plan is embodied, and we Christians, actually, in Him, are examples of it in respect of our freedom of spiritual access to God.
In such a heraldry the herald may well be content to suffer. Let not the Ephesians, then, deplore Paul’s persecutions and captivity. Rather, these things are “their glory,” [as proving that God willingly spends on their incorporation the sufferings of a chosen servant].
14 19. And now, [returning to the imagery of Temple and Shechinah,] he tells them of his prayer to the One Father of the great spiritual Family. It is that He would apply His Divine resources, in granting to them, by the immediate action of the Holy Spirit, power to welcome into their hearts, without reserve, evermore, Christ as the Indweller; [power personally to accept all that His Presence means]; and this, in order that they may be able, resting on and rooted in the Love of God, to grasp, in the sense of a new realization, the illimitable greatness of that Love, the Love of Christ, which eternally transcends the knowledge it invites; and that they may thus be ful filled with grace and God.
20 21. [The special treatment of the great Theme of the Indwelling closes with] an ascription of praise to Him who is supremely able, with an ability indicated already in experience by the life of regeneration, to do things in the soul which pass all actual articulate prayer and thought. To Him, for His glory manifested in the Church and in His Son, be all thanksgiving through all developments of the eternal Future!
Ch. 4:1 16. [He has hitherto dealt with spiritual facts and principles concerning the True Church, as in themselves. Now, without leaving them behind, or closing all further exposition of them, he comes to their application in the life and walk of the saints.] Let the first result of this transcendent salvation be a course of entire unselfishness, gentleness, and love, and of watchful resolves not to break up the spiritual unity of the Church by the opposite temper. This holy Unity pervades their new life and position everywhere; they form one Organism, animated by One Divine Spirit, with one glory in prospect, belonging to One Master, united to Him by one quality of faith, faith verified by one baptismal Seal; children of One Divine, supreme, all-immanent Father. Of this great Truth the other side, [equally needful to a life of holy unity,] is the diversity of endowments and works. This diversity is divinely suggested in the prophetic Psalm (68) which depicts [in its ultimate import] the Messiah’s largess of gifts after conflict and victory; (a passage whose wording suggests, in passing, the truth of the Descent of the Redeeming King in order to His infinite Ascent and His Omnipresence as actual Redeemer). What were those gifts? They were regenerated men, commissioned and qualified for ordered work for Him, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers, [different from each other personally and officially in very many ways, and] designed to work above all things for the equipment of the saints in general for their [varieties of] active service, in the doing of which lies one great means to the growth of the mystic Body. For the developed life and activity of the members will ever promote that of the Body, in its progression towards the eternal maturity [of the glorified state], in which Christ will be all that is intended by that great word the Head and the Members alike perfect and perfectly one for ever. [On the way to this, the unity in diversity of active spiritual life will secure] that the disciples shall not stand exposed, in childish weakness, to every shifting fashion of delusive teaching, but with a holy and loving instinct for Divine truth shall ever deepen their communion with their Head, the Vital Source from which, through contact of each with It, (such is the life-power of the Head, ministered to the varied receptacles of the Limbs,) the Body derives its secret of ever-developing coherence and growth, in the atmosphere of the love of God.
17 25. [Again to come to the point of practice;] their daily life is to break away for ever from the old unregenerate line, the line of moral and resulting mental delusion, in which the Divine Life was lost in the guilty blindness of fallen nature and whose manifestation in act had been the terrible surrender of the man to willing wickedness. The Ephesians, in their conversion, had learned far other principles in learning Christ, Jesus Christ, the holy Embodiment of all reality. In His school they had learnt the truth of a spiritual break of connexion with the “Old Man”; [in other words, that they had quitted the position of condemnation and spiritual impotence proper to the morally decaying member of the First Adam, and had taken the position of acceptance and of spiritual victory proper to the living and developing member of the Second Adam;] a divestiture of the “old self” and its status and an investiture of a “new self” and its status that self whose Basis and whose Ideal is He who is the personified Righteousness and Holiness of His own Gospel.
25 32. [Such being their position and possessions, let them put them into action. Let their acceptance, life, and union, in Christ come out in] mutual truthfulness, entire avoidance of unhallowed wrath, strictest honesty, total abstinence from polluting words, and uniform pure and helpful use of speech, lest the Holy Comforter, their Seal of final glory, should be grieved. All displays of anger, all self-asserting claims, all evil-speaking, all malice, are to be decisively ejected from their lives. They are to shew themselves always kindly, sympathetic, mutually forgiving, after the glorious Pattern of Him Who had as a fact forgiven them, in Christ, [the Reason and the Sphere of Divine Forgiveness].
Ch. 5:1 14. Of such a God, as His true born children, let them be imitators. And let their life be one of self-sacrificing love, after the example of the Saviour whose love led Him to the supreme sacrifice of atoning Death. And, of course, let all gross transgressions be banished from their very lips; impure act, and impure word, however witty. Lovers and doers of such things have no part in the kingdom of Redemption. No, let falsehood say what it will, for such sins the wrath of God is on its way to visit the impenitent. Let them make sure of exemption from such a doom, by making sure of holiness. Let them walk in the new-found light, and bear its pure, sound fruit; testing everything by the touchstone of God’s will; and not only avoiding the darkness and its unnamable shame, but exposing it, in the contrasted light of Christ. Nothing less than that light is needed in order to the rescue of [the victims of] darkness. They become light only when found by light. And so runs the prophetic word; “Arise shine awake.”
15 21. Let them be in earnest, then, in the details of life: spending watchfulness to purchase opportunity for good; cultivating in practice a sanctified intuition into God’s will. Let them avoid indulgence in wine, but seek the “calm excess” of a life which is lived in the Spirit, and in which the Spirit lives. Let them use for their musical expression of truth and joy [not the songs of the reveller but] the rich varieties of holy psalm, song, and ode, employed in spiritual truth. Let them meet God’s will, expressed in circumstances, with unvarying thanksgiving. Let them, [with the sweet instinct of the thankful,] be ever yielding to one another.
22 32. [And now, to come to the grand, primary, special instance the Christian Home, the sphere in which above all the spirit of the Gospel of unity in Christ must have its way.] Let the wife thus ever yield, in the Lord, to the husband’s headship, after the great example of the Church’s subjection to Christ, her Head, in the supreme Matrimonial Union; (He being the very Saviour of the mystic Body). And let the husband love the wife after the Lord’s own perfect example; with a love akin to that with which He gave His life for her, in order to her holy separation to Himself in the New Birth, signified and sealed by the baptismal Rite [of the New Covenant]; and in order ultimately to the Bridal Festival of Eternity, when He shall welcome her in her sinless glory to Himself. Yes, with love kindred to this let the husband love. Let the wife be seen to be part of his very body, claiming a no less tender and instinctive care; for so cares the Lord for us His Church, for us His limbs, us, who derive from Him our true being [as veritably as did the Primal Woman derive her physical being from the Primal Man]. To this His union with us mysteriously pointed the words of Genesis, about the man’s leaving parents to be joined to bride. Great is this revealed secret, this Archetype of every true marriage, this bridal Union of the Lord and the Church, and her derivation, as to second life, from Him. But [to sum up the matter of such marriage and its holy duties], let the husband love the wife with entire devotion, and the wife see that she reverence the husband.
Ch. 6:1 4. [Next among the relations of Home stands that of child and parent .] Let Christian children, as members of Christ, obey their parents as a sacred duty, a duty emphasized by the Promise of the Fifth Commandment. And let Christian parents temper with sympathetic kindness their sacred office of discipline and warning.
5 9. [Last comes the relation between servant and master .] Let the Christian servant, [and now especially, as the prominent case at Ephesus,] the Christian slave, obey his earthly master with conscientious care and holy singleness of aim, not only when watched, or in hope of gain, but as recognizing and loving the will of God in the hourly task, and as looking for the heavenly Master’s impartial “Well done” hereafter. And let the Christian master, as the slave of Christ, laying the old harsh ways aside, be as faithful to the slave’s interests as he asks the slave to be to his.
10 20. And now to sum up the whole teaching of the Epistle, [including the practical directions for common life just given,] let the Ephesians use the vast resources of spiritual strength secured to them by their union with Christ. Let them, [as if for the first time,] arm themselves completely with these resources against the crafty Enemy [whose great aim is to dislodge the believer from his vantage-ground]. Yes, our conflict, hand to hand, is with no mere human foes. We have to deal with the princes and marshals of the dark spiritual Empire of the Unseen. Let the Ephesians, then, take up the panoply of God, that they may stand, and still stand, in each crisis of the strife. Let them gird themselves with spiritual reality; put on the cuirass of loyalty to the will of God; sandal their feet, for foot-hold, with the calm certainty of peace [with Him and in Him]; meet every assault with the shield of simplest reliance on Him, thus quenching, as it were, before they can wound, the fire-arrows [of polluting or doubting thought]; receive [from the Lord’s hand], as a helmet , the fact of deliverance [in Him from doom and sin], and, as the sword of the Spirit’s forging, the inspired Word of God. And let spiritual prayer, in every variety of its exercise, be their constant practice, followed up with persevering watching; especially let them use intercessory prayer for all their fellow Christians, and not least for the Apostle, that he may deliver with more freedom of utterance than ever the revealed Secret whose chained ambassador he is.
21 22. And now to conclude. The Ephesians, as well as Paul’s other converts, must be kept informed of his position; and Tychicus, so well known as a devoted Christian labourer, is on his way to report on this and to encourage them.
23. So may the Divine gift of love, with that of faith, from the Father and the Son, be on the Ephesian brethren. Yea, let the grace of Christ be with all, everywhere, who love Him in the reality secured by the gift of the life of God. Amen.
The Epistle to the Ephesians … is one of the divinest compositions of man. It embraces every doctrine of Christianity; first, those doctrines peculiar to Christianity, and then those precepts common to it with natural religion.
S. T. Coleridge, Table Talk .
The Epistle to the Ephesians embraces, in its brevity, the whole field of the Christian religion. It expounds now its doctrines, now its morals, with such conciseness and such fulness combined that it would be difficult to name any great doctrine, or any essential duty, which has not its place marked in this Epistle.
Adolphe Monod, Explication de l’Épître aux Ephésiens ,
Introduction, p. i.
There shall arise from my seed in the latter times one beloved of the Lord, hearing upon earth His voice, shedding the light of new knowledge upon all the Gentiles … And unto the consummation of the ages he shall be, in the synagogues of the Gentiles and among their rulers, like a musical strain in the mouth of all, and shall be recorded in holy pages, both his work and his word, and shall be the chosen of God for ever.
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
(cent. 1 or 2), ‘ Benjamin ’, ch. 11.