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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 1

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-23

Thanksgiving for Blessings and Prayer for Wisdom

1, 2. The salutation. I. In the Salutations to the Colossians and to Philemon, written at the same time, ’Timothy the brother’ is coupled with St. Paul. He is omitted here because of the general character of the letter. At Ephesus was omitted for the same reason (see Intro.). The Apostle takes the whole responsibility of instructing Christians at large respecting ’the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27).

2. This is the usual salutation in the Pauline, as in the Petrine Epistles; 1 and 2 Timothy are exceptions.

3-14. This doxology or thanksgiving should be compared with that in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. That is for a special deliverance; this is for God’s general mercy in revealing His purpose to sum up all things in Christ. ’We Jews have long had this promise; but ye Gentiles also have been sealed with the Holy Spirit as an earnest of the inheritance.’ The long sentence, with its accumulated richness of language, shows how difficult St. Paul finds it to express in words the majestic thoughts of which his mind is so full. ’I bless God, who has blessed us with the best of blessings, in virtue of our union with Christ. For this end He selected us from all eternity to live in His presence in holiness and love. All along He destined us to be His sons through the work of Jesus Christ. He did this simply out of His good-will, and to call forth our adoring gratitude. This was His grace to us in Him who is the Beloved, who redeemed us by His death, and freed us from our sins. What a wealth of grace is this! It conveys wisdom and understanding; for He has let us know His secret purpose, which directs and explains the course of ages, to bring all things, both in heaven and on earth, into harmony in Christ. In Christ, I say, in whom we have been chosen as God’s portion; for all along He destined us, according to His all-wise will, that we Jews, who had fixed our hopes on Christ, should live to His glory. And with us Jews, you Gentiles also are now associated by faith in the gospel, and have received the Spirit as a pledge that you are His portion, and that His work of redemption is complete and redounds to His glory.’

3. With the God of our Lord Jesus Christ cp. Ephesians 1:17; Hebrews 1:9; John 20:17; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 3:2, Revelation 3:12. With all spiritual blessings] RV ’with every spiritual blessing.’ Something much higher than the material, temporal blessings promised in the OT. In heavenly places] RV ’in the heavenly places. The phrase is found in four other places in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12), and nowhere else. There is no substantive in the Gk., and we may render, ’among the heavenly things’; the unseen world, in which lie the spiritual forces which oppose us and which help us. Here are the true realities.

4. In history God selected the Jews first, and then the Gentiles; but the selection of both was made in eternity, independently of time, and through Christ. In love] man’s love to God and his fellows, not God’s love to man (Ephesians 3:17; Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:16, Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:2).

5. All are God’s children by creation; but He adopted first the Jews (Romans 9:4), and then believers (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5), into a special sonship. St. Paul is the only NT. writer who uses this metaphor of adoption, taken from Roman law.

6. To the praise of the glory] This phrase comes thrice, as a sort of refrain: cp. Ephesians 1:12, Ephesians 1:14. God’s amazing bounty is a glory to be ceaselessly praised.

7. Israel had been redeemed by Jehovah from bondage; Israelites and Gentiles are redeemed by Christ from sin.

8. Wisdom and prudence] These are the fruits of God’s grace in us; insight into His counsels and consequent wise conduct: in all = in giving us all, etc.

9. Mystery] In the NT. this means a secret that has been revealed; a favourite word with St. Paul (Ephesians 3:3-4, Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 5:32; Ephesians 6:19, etc.): cp. 2 Esdras 12:36.

10. ’For carrying out a dispensation which was carried out in the fulness of the seasons, so as to gather up in one all things in Christ.’ When all the seasons had run out, the final revelation came: cp. 2 Esdras 4:37. Dispensation] = (1) office of steward, (2) household management, (3) any provision or arrangement.

13. Ye also] ’ye Gentiles as well as we Jews.’ Sealed with] ’received the Holy Spirit as a pledge that your deliverance should be complete.’

14. An earnest = Scotch ’arles,’ is more than a ’pledge’; it is an instalment handed over in advance, as a guarantee that the remainder will follow (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5). It is part of the whole to be delivered. Redemption of the purchased possession] ’the emancipation of all that God has made His own.’

15-2:10. The doxology shades off into prayer that his readers may have wisdom to understand the glory of their inheritance and the great power of God, a power manifested in raising and exalting Christ (Ephesians 1:20-23), and in raising and exalting us (Ephesians 2:1-10), How great it must be!

15. Heard] This looks as if there were some whom St. Paul had not seen, i.e. others besides Ephesians.

17. Cp. 2 Esdras 14:22-25.

21. The Apostle partly adopts and partly rejects Jewish phraseology about unseen powers. ’Call them what you please, Christ is above them all.’

22. An echo of Psalms 8:5-8. If that could be said of man, how much more of Christ! 23. Cp. the Vine and the branches (John 15:5); Christ is the source of the life and completeness of the Church. But St. Paul seems to mean that Christ is, in a sense, incomplete without the Church. The very idea of Head implies a body. It is doubtful whether the Gk. can mean ’that filleth all in all.’ Rather, ’who all in all is being fulfilled, made complete’: cp. Colossians 1:24.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/ephesians-1.html. 1909.
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