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Bible Commentaries

Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Ephesians 2


Ephesians 2

THE CHURCH IS not yet completed, and the saints are here in weakness, but our Head is exalted far above all by the surpassing greatness of divine power, and this exhibits how great is the power that works toward us in life-giving energy. Hence chapter 2 simply opens with, “And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” God’s power has wrought, “in Christ . . . and you.” It wrought in Christ when He was dead on account of our trespasses and sins. It wrought in us when we were dead in our own trespasses and sins. His quickening power in us is according to that supreme display which took place in regard to Christ.

In verses Eph_2:2 and 3 we again meet with the distinction between the Gentile “ye” and the Jewish “we.” Yet both had their activities in that which was wholly evil. The walk of the Gentile is declared to have been particularly

characterized by the world and the devil, inasmuch as they followed false gods, behind which lay the power of demons. The walk of the Jew was more particularly characterized by the lusts of the flesh, as verse Eph_2:3 indicates. They were not worshipping demons, but they were by nature the children of wrath, just as others. Just the same indictments may be brought today against those who are openly irreligious and profane, and those who profess a form of piety, yet simply follow “the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” The desires of the mind may have often a very attractive and even intellectual appearance, and yet be wholly astray from God.

Such were we, whether Jew or Gentile. At one and the same moment we were dead in trespasses and sins and yet active in all kinds of evil. Very much alive to everything wrong, yet wholly dead to God. Being dead towards God we were without any point of recovery in ourselves: our only hope lay in Him. Hence the great words with which verse Eph_2:4 opens, “But God “

What has God done? We were full of sins and were subject to the wrath that sins deserve. God is rich in mercy and toward such as ourselves He had great love. Accordingly He has made us to live together with Christ. And not only have we been made to live but we have been raised up and made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Let us note three things in connection with this striking passage.

First, observe that since it is wholly a question of God, His purpose and His actings, we are carried clean outside all question of time. That which is not to us exists for Him. Hence our sitting in heavenly places is an accomplished thing to Him, and is so spoken of here.

Second, observe how the word “together,” occurs. In our unconverted state, as Jews or Gentiles, as the case may have been, we were very different and very antagonistic. Now all that has been done has been done in regard to us together; all differences having been abolished.

Third, all that God has done He has wrought in connection with Christ. If we have been quickened, it has been together with Christ. If raised up and seated in heavenly places, it has been in Christ. Two prepositions are used, with and in. We have already been actually quickened in the sense of Joh_5:25 , though we wait for the quickening of our mortal bodies. As quickened we live in association with Christ, because living of His life. We have not yet been actually raised up and seated in the heavens, but Christ

has and He is our exalted Head. We are in Him, and consequently raised up and seated in Him. Presently we shall actually be raised up and seated with Him.

We have only to meditate a moment on these wonderful things to be assured that none of them has been accomplished according to our need, but according to the mind and heart and purpose of God. Hence, when all is brought to final fruition in the coming ages, the marvellous kindness shown in Christ Jesus towards us will display the surpassing riches of the grace of God. God is indeed the God of all grace. His dealings with Israel, blessing them ultimately in spite of all their unfaithfulness, will redound to the praise of His grace. But when we think of what and where we were, according to verses Ephesians 2.1-2.3 , and then contemplate the heights to which we are lifted, according to verses Ephesians 2.4-2.6 , we can see that His dealings with us set forth a richness of grace that surpasses anything seen in Israel or anywhere else.

The contemplation of it leads the Apostle to again emphasize the fact that our salvation is all of grace. He had stated this previously, in verse Eph_2:5 , in a parenthetical way. In verse Eph_2:8 he enlarges upon this important fact, and adds that it is also through faith. The grace is God’s: the faith is ours. Yet even our faith is not of ourselves. Faith is not a natural product of the human heart. The weeds that grow by nature in the heart of man are detailed for us in Romans 3.9-3.19 . Faith is no weed at all, but rather a choice flower which once planted by the heavenly Father can never be rooted up. It is the gift of God.

Now this necessarily excludes works; that is, works done in order to obtain life and blessing. The only works of which we were capable were those detailed in verses Eph_2:2 and 3, and in those works we were spiritually dead. God Himself is the Worker and we are His workmanship; a very different thing. Further, the work necessary was nothing short of creation. How obvious then that human works must be excluded.

God has created us, you observe, in Christ Jesus. This is new creation. We were in Adam according to the old creation, but the Adamic life has been wholly corrupted. We have now been created in Christ Jesus with a view to our walking in good works in the midst of this world of sin.

This brings us back to the point with which we started. The surpassing greatness of the power of God, which wrought in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, was needed to accomplish so mighty a work in us.

We have been newly created in Christ Jesus, as stated in verse 10. This is the work of God in us, but it is not to be dissociated from the work of God wrought for us by the blood and cross of Christ. From verse Eph_2:11 to the end of the chapter we are bidden to remember three things: the depths from which we Gentiles have been brought; the heights to which we have been introduced; the basis upon which the mighty transference has been accomplished the death of Christ.

The picture of the natural condition of Gentiles, drawn by the Apostle in verses Eph_2:11 and 12, is a very dark one. Nor is it made any brighter for us today by reason of our living in the midst of a civilization which has been slightly christianized. It matters little that we should be called Uncircumcision by the Jew: but the other six items in the count against us matter very much indeed.

Being “in the flesh,” means that the fallen Adamic nature characterized our state, and consequently controlled us. This alone would account for all the gross evil which fills the Gentile world.

But then we were “without Christ.” Without, that is, the only One who could bring in any way of salvation from our lost estate.

Again, God had at an earlier date brought in certain very definite privileges. He established the commonwealth of Israel, making them the depositories of the covenants of promise, though putting them for the moment under the covenant of law. And further, inasmuch as they did have the covenants of promise they were the only people with definite hopes securely founded upon the Word of God. As regards all this the Gentiles were “aliens” and “strangers” and “without hope.” Not a streak of light appeared upon their dark horizon.

Lastly they were “without God in the world.” Idols they had without number, and the modern world has them too, though in a different form. God was, and is, unknown.

To sum it all up: they had the flesh and the world, but they had no Christ, no privilege, no hope and no God. We too were in exactly the same plight.

Now let us turn to survey that into which we have been brought, as detailed in verses Eph_2:13 to 22. First of all we have been “made nigh” in Christ Jesus. Being made nigh means that we now have God. The blood of Christ has given us a righteous place in His presence, and the wonderful thing is that we are brought near as introduced into a wholly new relationship. This is indicated in verse 18. Our access to Him is not merely as God, but as Father.

In what way are we made nigh? Israel had a certain nearness under the old covenant. Are we to be a kind of duplicate of them? No, for according to verse Eph_2:14 both have been made one. The word, “both” indicates believing Jews on the one hand, and believing Gentiles on the other. This oneness has been brought to pass by Christ. He has broken down the dividing wall and made peace between the warring factions. He has abolished the enmity in His flesh: that is, by the offering up of His body in death.

The enmity was connected with “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” The law of Moses contained great moral enactments, which are never abrogated, but there were also many ordinances of a ceremonial nature connected with it. These ceremonial rules separated

Israel from the nations by making them a peculiar people in their habits; indeed, they were intended so to do. Such ordinances were annulled for believers in the death of Christ, and at once this great cause of hostility was removed. Acts 21.20-21.26 , shows how little this was realized by the early believers in Jerusalem, and how even Paul himself seems to have been for the moment deflected from what he here lays down. We see in that passage also how great the hostility was on the part of Jews; an hostility which was fully reciprocated by the Gentiles.

Having thus abolished the enmity, the Christ has made the two into one in Himself. It is not that the Gentile is now one with the Jew, but that the Jew in Christ is now absolutely one with the Gentile in Christ. Both are found in a position and condition before God which is wholly fresh and original. They are no longer two men but one man, and that man is altogether new. This is a complete solution of the enmity difficulty “so making peace.” Two men might quarrel. One man cannot very well do so. And he has no inclination to do so, for he is a new kind of man. In all this we are of course looking at what God has accomplished in an abstract way: that is, according to its essential character, and without introducing those

modifications found in our practice, owing to the flesh still being found in us.

Verse Eph_2:16 brings in an additional thought. Not only are believing Jews and Gentiles one new man that expresses their new character but they are formed into one body, and as such reconciled to God. Reconciliation was needed because they both were in a state of enmity Godward, as well as being in a state of enmity between themselves. Again, you notice, the death of Christ is introduced; this time as, “the cross.” By it He slew the enmity that enmity Godward, which was in the hearts of both, and not only the enmity they had cherished between each other.

Having done it, and thus effected the great basis of reconciliation, He has Himself acted as the Messenger of peace to both Gentile and Jew. The former were “afar off” in the old dispensation, and the latter were “nigh.” This is a remarkable sentence. Christ is presented as a Preacher to Gentiles and to Jews after the cross; that is, in resurrection. Yet, as far as we are told in Scripture, He has never been seen or heard by any unconverted person since He was hanging dead upon the cross. He did appear in resurrection to His disciples and speak peace to them, but when did He preach peace to either Jews or Gentiles? The only answer we can give is Never at all in Person. He only did it by means of the apostolic preaching, or in other words, by proxy.

This mode of speaking may seem to us somewhat strange, but it is found elsewhere in the Bible. 1Pe_3:19 , is a striking example, and 1Pe_1:11 furnishes us with something very similar. If the verse in 1Pet 3.0 had been read in the light of Eph_2:17 , we should have been spared many mistaken explanations of the former passage, for there can be no doubt that the preaching alluded to here was that of the apostles and other servants of Christ, who in the earliest years of Christianity carried the tidings of peace far and wide.

The word, one, occurs for the fourth time in verse 18. It is evident that special emphasis is laid upon the word. Verse Eph_2:14 states the fact that we are one. Verse Eph_2:15 adds the fact that it is as one new man. Verse Eph_2:16 shows that we are one body. Verse Eph_2:18 completes the story by showing that we both are given to possess one Spirit, whereby we have access to the Father. How evident it is then that in the Christian circle all distinction between Jew and Gentile is completely gone.

These glorious facts being established, Paul introduces these Gentile believers to the height of their spiritual privilege. They were no longer strangers and foreigners, nor are we: rather we are fellow-citizens with the saints and of the Divine household, and built into the structure that God is rearing. Three figures are laid under contribution in these closing four verses the city, the household, the building. It would seem as if we are introduced step by step to that which is more intimate.

We are fellow-citizens with the saints. This is rather a general thought. God has prepared a heavenly city for believers of Old Testament days, who are to enjoy a heavenly portion. This is stated in Heb_11:16 . In all that heavenly portion believers of this day are to share. Its privileges are ours, for our names have been written in heaven (see, Luk_10:20 ); inscribed upon its rolls we can say that our citizenship is there.

An household is a place of greater intimacy than a city. The Lord Mayor of London, for instance, appears in greater splendour when he acts in that capacity as the head of the City, but he is known more intimately when he has laid aside the proud trappings of his high office and acts simply as the head of his own household. Now we are not merely citizens but are also of God’s household. Thus it is that we are brought near and have such liberty of access; but thus also it is that we are responsible to wear the character of that One to whose household we belong.

When we come to the thought of the building we have to consider ourselves as stones as suitable material for the structure and God Himself as the Builder on the one hand, and as the One who dwells within the shrine when constructed, on the other. The house of the Lord is where one may behold “the beauty of the Lord” ( Psa_27:4 ). In the temple of God, “doth every one speak of His glory” ( Psa_29:9 ), or as the margin has it, “every whit of it uttereth, glory.” That we should be thus “fitted together” on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, and all speaking forth the glory of God is a matter of extraordinary intimacy indeed. The wonder of it is increased when we remember that we were nothing but Gentiles by nature.

The third figure, that of the building, sub-divides itself under two heads. There is first the building viewed as a progressive work all through the present age and only reaching its completion in glory, though each stone

that is added is fitly framed together. Completed, it will indeed speak forth the glory of God.

Secondly there is the building viewed as an habitation of God all through the present age a complete thing at any given moment, though those who constitute it change. All along from the Day of Pentecost God has dwelt in the church through the Spirit that church which is composed of every Spirit-indwelt believer on earth at any given moment. He does not dwell in temples made with hands, but in this house He does dwell by His Spirit.

Let us not overlook the two words with which both verses Eph_2:21 and 22 open “in whom.” When we were considering the blessing into which we are brought as individuals we saw all was ours in Christ. It is just the same when we consider the blessing in which we stand in a collective or corporate way. All is in Christ. The church is builded together in Christ, and God dwells in it in Spirit.

All these things are not just ideas, but rather great realities. If perchance they sound strange in our ears, is it not because we are more familiar with what men have made of the church, largely perverting it according to their own ideas, than with what the church really is according to God? And remember, all men’s perversions and adaptations will pass, and God’s handiwork will remain. So we had better make haste to acquaint ourselves with what God has made the church to be, otherwise all too much of our service may be lost, and we ourselves be sadly unprepared for what will be revealed when the Lord comes, and in the twinkling of an eye the church comes forth altogether according to divine workmanship and not at an according to man’s organization.

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Bibliographical Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Ephesians 2". "Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.