Click here to join the effort!
An apostle of Jesus Christ.—The word apostle is used in three senses in the New Testament.
1. In its primary sense of messenger, John 13:16, (the messenger), he that is sent is not greater than he that sent him. Philippians 2:25, your messenger. 2 Corinthians 8:23, messengers of the churches. Ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν; του τέστες, says Chrysostom, ὑπὸ ἐκκλησιῶν πεμφθἐντες. Theophylact adds καὶ χειροτομηθἐντες.
2. In the sense of missionaries, men sent by the church to preach the Gospel.—In this sense Paul and Barnabas are called apostles, Acts 14:4, Acts 14:14; and probably Andronicus and Junias, Romans 16:7.
3. In the sense of plenipotentiaries of Christ; men whom he personally selected and sent forth invested with full authority to teach and rule in his name. In this sense it is always used when “the apostles,” “the twelve,” or “the apostles of the Lord,” are spoken of as a well-known, definite class. They were appointed as witnesses of Christ’s miracles, doctrines, resurrection; and therefore it was necessary that they should not only have seen him after his resurrection, but that their knowledge of the Gospel should be immediately from Christ, John 15:26; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 13:31; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:12. They were not confined to any one field but had a general jurisdiction over the churches, as is manifest from their epistles.—To qualify them for this office of authoritatively teaching, organizing, and governing the church, they were rendered infallible by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and their divine mission was confirmed by miraculous powers.—Their authority therefore rested first on their commission, and secondly on their inspiration. Hence it is evident that none can have the authority of an apostle who has not apostolic gifts. In this respect Romanists are consistent, for they claim infallibility for those whom they regard as the official successors of the apostles. They are, however, inconsistent with their own theory, and at variance with the Scripture, in making this infallibility the prerogative of the prelates in their collective capacity, instead of claiming it for each individual bishop.
Διὰ θελήματος Θεοῦ, by the will of God. There are two ideas included in this phrase:
1. That the apostleship was a gift, or grace from God, Romans 1:5; Ephesians 3:7-8.
2. That the commission or authority of the apostles was immediately from God.
Paul in Galatians 1:1 as well as in other passages, asserts that apostleship was neither derived from men nor conveyed through the instrumentality of men, but conferred directly by God through Christ.
To the saints which are at Ephesus. The Israelites, under the old dispensation, were called saints, because separated from other nations and consecrated to God. In the New Testament the word is applied to believers, not merely as externally consecrated, but as reconciled to God and inwardly purified. The word ἁγιάζειν signifies to cleanse, either from guilt by a propitiatory sacrifice, as in Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 10:10-14, or from inward pollution, and also to consecrate. Hence the ἅγιοι, saints, are those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and thus separated from the world and consecrated to God. On the words, which are at Ephesus, see the Introduction.
And to the faithful in Christ Jesus. The word πιστός, faithful, may mean preserving faith, worthy of faith, or exercising faith. In the last sense, which is its meaning here, it is equivalent to believing. The faithful, therefore, are believers. In Christ, belongs equally to the two preceding clauses: τοῖς ἁγίοις—καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ, ‘To the saints and faithful who are in Christ Jesus.’ Those whom he calls saints he also calls faithful; Ergo, says Calvin, nemo fidelis, nisi qui etiam sanctus: et nemo rursum sanctus, nisi qui fidelis. No one is a believer who is not holy; and no one is holy who is not a believer.
Ephesians 1:2 contains the usual apostolic benediction. Paul prays that grace and peace may be granted to his readers. Grace is unmerited favor; and the grace or favor of God is the source of all good. Peace, according to the usage of the corresponding Hebrew word, means well-being in general. It comprehends all blessings flowing from the goodness of God. The apostle prays to Christ, and seeks from him blessings which God only can bestow. Christ therefore was to him the object of habitual worship. He lived in communion with Christ as a divine person, the ground of his confidence and the source of all good.
God is our Father:
1. As He is the author of our being;
2. As we were formed in his likeness. He as a spirit is the Father of spirits.
3. As we are born again by his Spirit and adopted into his family.
It is in reference to the last-mentioned relationship that the expression is almost always used in the New Testament. Those who are the children of God are such by regeneration and adoption.
Jesus Christ is our supreme and absolute Lord and proprietor. The word κύριος is indeed used in Scripture in the sense of master, and as a mere honorary title as in English Master or Sir. But, on the other hand, it is the translation of Adonai, supreme Lord, an incommunicable name of God, and the substitute for Jehovah, a name the Jews would not pronounce. It is in this sense that Christ is, The Lord, The Lord of Lords, The Lord God; Lord in that sense in which God alone can be Lord—having a dominion of which divine perfection is the only adequate or possible foundation. This is the reason why no one can call him Lord, but by the Holy Ghost, 1 Corinthians 12:3. It is a confession which implies the apprehension of the glory of God as it shines in Him. It is an acknowledgment that he is God manifested in the flesh. Blessed are all they who make this acknowledgment with sincerity; for flesh and blood cannot reveal the truth therein confessed, but the Father who is in heaven.
The apostle blesses God for the spiritual gifts bestowed upon his people, Ephesians 1:3. Of these the first in order and the source of all the others, is election, Ephesians 1:4. This election is,
1st. Of individuals.
2nd. In Christ;
3rd. It is from eternity.
4th. It is to holiness, and to the dignity of sons of God.
5th. It is founded on the sovereign pleasure of God, Ephesians 1:4-5.
6th. Its final object is the glory of God, or the manifestation of his grace, Ephesians 1:6.
The second blessing here mentioned is actual redemption through the blood of Christ; the free remission of sins according to the riches of his grace, Ephesians 1:7-8.
The third blessing is the revelation of the divine purpose in relation to the economy of redemption; which has for its object the reduction of all things to a harmonious whole under Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:9-10.
Through this Redeemer, the Jewish Christians who had long looked for the Messiah are, agreeably to the divine purpose, made the heirs of God, Ephesians 1:11-12.
The Gentile converts are partakers of the same inheritance; because, having believed in Christ, they are assured of their redemption by the possession of the Holy Spirit, the pledge of the inheritance until its actual and complete enjoyment, Ephesians 1:13-14.
Εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεός, Blessed be God. The word εῦλογεῖν, like its English equivalent, to bless, signifies to praise, as when we bless God; to pray for blessings, as when we bless others; and to bestow blessings, as when God blesses us. Blessed be God who hath blessed us, is then the expression of thanksgiving and praise to God on account of those peculiar benefits which we receive from him through Christ.
God is here designated as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, he is at once God and Father, sustaining both these relations to Christ. Our Savior used a similar form of expression, when he said, ‘I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God.’ John 20:17. The God in whom the Israelites trusted was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their covenant God. This designation served to remind the ancient people of God of his promise to their fathers, and of their peculiar consequent relationship to him. The God in whom we are called upon to trust, and to whom we are to look as the source of all good, is not the absolute Jehovah, nor the God who stood in a special relation to the Israelites; but the God of redemption; the God whom the Lord Jesus revealed, whose will he came to accomplish, and who was his Father. It is this relationship which is the ground of our confidence. It is because God has sent the Lord Jesus into the world, because He spared not his own Son, that he is our God and Father, or that we have access to him as such.
It is this reconciled God, the God of the covenant of grace, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings. The past tense, hath blessed, is used because the apostle contemplates his readers as actually redeemed, and in present possession of the unspeakable blessings which Christ has procured. These blessings are spiritual not merely because they pertain to the soul, but because derived from the Holy Spirit, whose presence and influence are the great blessing purchased by Christ.
“In heavenly places.” The words, ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις may be rendered either in or with heavenly things, or in heavenly places, i.e. in heaven. If the former method be adopted the sense is, ‘Hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, i.e. with heavenly things.’ The words however occur five times in this epistle and always elsewhere in a local sense. See Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12, which therefore should be preferred here. They are to be connected with the immediately preceding word, ‘Blessings in heaven.’ The meaning is that these blessings pertain to that heavenly state into which the believer is introduced. Here on earth he is, as the apostle says, in Ephesians 2:6, ‘in heavenly places.’ He is a citizen of heaven, Philippians 3:10. The word heaven, in Scripture, is not confined in its application to the place or state of future blessedness, but sometimes is nearly equivalent to ‘kingdom of heaven.’ The old writers, therefore, were accustomed to distinguish between the coelum gloriae, the heaven of glory; coelum naturae, the visible heavens, and coelum gratiae, the heaven of grace here on earth. These blessings connected with this heavenly state, are conferred upon believers in Christ. It is as they are in him, and in virtue of that union that they are partakers of these benefits.
All these blessings have their source in the electing love of God. Ευλογήσας—καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς, he blessed us because he chose us. Καθὼς, according as, or, inasmuch as, because, seeJohn 17:2; Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 1:6. Election is the cause or source of all subsequent benefits.
He hath chosen us. By us is not meant the apostle alone, because there is nothing in the context to indicate or justify this restriction. The blessings consequent on the election here spoken of, are in no sense peculiar to the apostle. Neither does the word refer to any external community or society as such. It is not us Ephesians, as Ephesians, nor us Corinthians, nor us Romans, as formerly the Jews were chosen by a national election. But it is us believers, scattered here and there. It is those who are the actual recipients of the blessings spoken of, viz. holiness, sonship, remission of sins, and eternal life.
We are said to be chosen in Him; an expression which is variously explained. Some refer the pronoun to God, ‘chosen us in himself;’ which is contrary not only to the context but to the signification of the words ἐν αὐτῷ, which is the received text. Others say the meaning is, ‘He hath chosen us because we are in him.’ The foresight of our faith or union with Christ, being the ground of this election. This however cannot be admitted.
1. Because faith, or a living union with Christ, is the very blessing to which we are chosen.
2. Because it introduces into the passage more than the words express.
3. Because in this immediate connection, as well as elsewhere, the ground of this election is declared to be the good pleasure of God.
A third interpretation also supposes an ellipsis. The full expression would be: εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, Chosen us to be in Him; in ipso, videlicet adoptandos, as Beza explains it. The objection to this is that it introduces more than the words contain, and that the end to which we are chosen is expressed in the following clause, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους. It is best therefore to take the words as they stand, and to inquire in what sense our election is in Christ. The purpose of election is very comprehensive. It is the purpose of God to bring his people to holiness, sonship, and eternal glory. He never intended to do this irrespective of Christ. On the contrary it was his purpose, as revealed in Scripture, to bring his people to these exalted privileges through a Redeemer. It was in Christ as their head and representative they were chosen to holiness and eternal life, and therefore in virtue of what he was to do in their behalf. There is a federal union with Christ which is antecedent to all actual union, and is the source of it. God gave a people to his Son in the covenant of redemption. Those included in that covenant, and because they are included in it—in other words, because they are in Christ as their head and representative—receive in time the gift of the Holy Spirit and all other benefits of redemption. Their voluntary union with Christ by faith, is not the ground of their federal union, but, on the contrary, their federal union is the ground of their voluntary union. It is, therefore, in Christ, i.e. as united to him in the covenant of redemption, that the people of God are elected to eternal life and to all the blessings therewith connected. Much in the same sense the Israelites are said to have been chosen in Abraham. Their relation to Abraham and God’s covenant with him, were the ground and reason of all the peculiar blessings they enjoyed. So our covenant union with Christ is the ground of all the benefits which we as the people of God possess or hope for. We were chosen in Christ, as the Jews were chosen in Abraham. The same truth is expressed in Ephesians 3:11, where it is said that the carrying out or application of the plan of redemption is “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God purposed to save men in Christ, He elected them in him to salvation.
Again, this election is from eternity. He chose us πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, before the foundation of the world. Compare
This election is to holiness. We are chosen εἶναι ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, to be holy and without blame before him. These words admit of two interpretations. They may be understood to refer to our justification, or to our sanctification. They express either that freedom from guilt and blame in the sight of God, which is the proximate effect of the death of Christ; or that subjective purification of the soul which is its indirect, but certain effect produced by the Holy Spirit which his death secures for his people. The words admit of either interpretation; because ἁγιάζειν, as remarked above on Ephesians 1:1, often means to cleanse from guilt, to atone for; and ἅγιος means clean from guilt, atoned for; and ἄμωμος may mean free from any ground of blame; unsträflich (not deserving of punishment), as Luther renders it. In favor of this interpretation it is urged, first, that it is unscriptural as well as contrary to experience, to make perfect purity and freedom from all blemish, the end of election. There is little force in this argument, because the end of election is not fully attained in this life. It might as well be said that the υἱοθεσία (the adoption of sons), to which in Ephesians 1:5 we are said to be predestinated, includes nothing more than what is experienced in this world. Besides, in Ephesians 5:27, it is said, Christ gave himself for the church, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but (ἵνα ᾗ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος) that it should be holy and without blemish.” This certainly is descriptive of a degree of inward purity not attained by the church militant. Compare Colossians 1:22. Secondly, it is urged that the whole context treats of the effect of the ἱλαστήριον or propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, and therefore these words must be understood of justification, because sanctification is not the effect of a sacrifice. But the Scriptures often speak of the remote, as well as of the immediate end of Christ’s death. We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son in order that we should be holy. Propitiation is in order to holiness. Therefore, it is said, “He gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself a people zealous of good works.” Titus 2:14. In many other passages sanctification is said to be the end for which Christ died. There is nothing in the context, therefore, which requires us to depart from the ordinary interpretation of this passage. If the words ἐν ἀγάπῃ (in love) are to be connected with the preceding clause, it is decisive as to its meaning. ‘We are chosen to be holy and without blame in love.’
If election is to holiness as the apostle here teaches, it follows, first, that individuals, and not communities or nations, are the objects of election; secondly, that holiness in no form can be the ground of election. If men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy. And, thirdly, it follows that holiness is the only evidence of election. For one who lives in sin to claim to be elected unto holiness, is a contradiction.
The apostle says, God hath chosen us to holiness, having predestinated us to sonship; that is, because he has thus predestinated us. Holiness, therefore, must be a necessary condition or prerequisite for the sonship here spoken of. Sonship in reference to God includes—
1. Participation of his nature, or conformity to his image.
2. The enjoyment of his favor, or being the special objects of his love.
3. Heirship, or a participation of the glory and blessedness of God.
Sometimes one and sometimes another of these ideas is the most prominent. In the present case it is the second and third. God having predestinated his people to the high dignity and glory of sons of God, elected them to holiness, without which that dignity could neither be possessed nor enjoyed. It is through Jesus Christ, that we are made the sons of God. As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God. John 1:12. For we are all the children of God by faith of Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:26. Christ has purchased this dignity for his people. He died for them on condition that they should be the sons of God, restored to their Father’s family and reinstated in all the privileges of this divine relationship.
The words εἰς αὐτὸν, to himself, in the clause, ‘Predestinated us to sonship by Jesus Christ to himself,’ are somewhat difficult. The text, in the first place, is uncertain. Some editors read εἰς αὐτὸν, unto himself, and others εἰς αὐτὸν, unto him. In either case, however, the reference is to God. They admit of three explanations:
1. They may limit or explain the word sonship. ‘Sonship unto himself,’ i.e. sons in relation to God.
2. They may express the design of this adoption. ‘Sonship for himself,’ i.e. for his benefit or glory. This assumes that εἰς is here equivalent to the dative.
3. They may be connected immediately with the words of Jesus Christ. ‘Through Jesus Christ to himself,’ i.e. to be brought to him by Jesus Christ.
The first is generally preferred, because it gives a good sense, and is consistent with the force of the preposition.
The ground of this predestination and of the election founded upon it, is expressed by the clause κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, according to the good pleasure of his will. The word εὐδοκία means either benevolence, favor, as in Luke 2:14; or good pleasure, free or sovereign purpose, as in Matthew 11:26; and Luke 10:21; Philippians 2:13. The meaning therefore may be either: ‘according to his benevolent will,’ or ‘according to his sovereign will,’ i.e. his good pleasure. The latter is to be preferred.
1. Because it agrees better with the usage of the word in the N. T. In Matthew 11:26, ὅτι οὕτως ἐγένετο εὐδοκία ἔμπροσθέν σου means, ‘Because thus it seemed good in thy sight.’ In Luke 10:21, the same words occur in the same sense. In Philippians 2:13, ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας means ‘of good pleasure.’
2. The words εὐδοκία τοῦ θελήματος naturally mean voluntus liberrima, beneplacitum, sovereign purpose; to make them mean benevolent will, is contrary to scriptural usage.
3. In this connection it is not the predestinated that are the objects of εὐδοκία but the act of predestination itself. God chose to have that purpose. It seemed good to him.
4. The expressions, “purpose of his will,” “counsel of his will,” Ephesians 1:11, are used interchangeably with that in the text, and determine its meaning.
5. The analogy of Scripture is in favor of this interpretation, because the ground of election is always said to be the good pleasure of God.
The final end of election is the glory of God. He has predestinated us to sonship, εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ, to the praise of the glory of his grace. That is, in order that in the exaltation and blessedness of his people, matter for celebrating his grace might be abundantly afforded. It is worthy of remark that here, as in Ephesians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, and elsewhere, the specific design of redemption and of the mode in which its blessings are dispensed, is declared to be the manifestation of the grace or unmerited favor of God. Nothing therefore can be more foreign to the nature of the Gospel than the doctrine of merit in any form. It is uncongenial with that great scheme of mercy whose principal design is to exhibit the grace of God.
It is to weaken the language of the apostle to make δόξης a mere qualification either of ἔπαινον (praise), or of χάριτος (grace). It is neither glorious praise, nor glorious grace, but to the praise of the glory of his grace. The glory of grace, is the divine excellence of that attribute manifested as an object of admiration. The glory of God is the manifested excellence of God, and the glory of any one of his attributes, is the manifestation of that attribute as an object of praise. The design of redemption, therefore, is to exhibit the grace of God in such a conspicuous manner as to fill all hearts with wonder and all lips with praise.
Wherein he hath made us accepted. The Text in this clause is uncertain. Some MSS. have ἐν ᾗ which is the common text; and others ἧς. Mill, Griesbach, Lachmann, Rückert adopt the latter; Knapp, Scholz, Harless, De Wette the former. If the genitive be preferred, ἧς is for ἥν, and the phrase χάριν χαριτοῦν would be analogous to others of frequent occurrence, as κλῆσιν καλεῖν, ἀγάπην ἀγαπᾶν. This clause admits of two interpretations. The word χαριτὸω, agreeably to the analogy of words of the same formation, signifies to impart χάρις, grace. The literal rendering therefore of the words ἐν ᾗ (χάριτι) ἐξαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς would be, with which grace he has graced us, or conferred grace upon us. But as grace sometimes means a disposition and sometimes a gift, the sense may be either, ‘Wherein (i.e. in the exercise of which) he has been gracious towards us;’ or, ‘With which he has made us gracious or well pleasing.’ In the former case, grace refers to the goodness or unmerited favor of God exercised towards us; in the latter, to the sanctifying effect produced on us. It is the grace by which he has sanctified or rendered us gracious (in the subjective sense of that word) in his sight. The Greek and Romish interpreters prefer the latter interpretation; the great body of Protestant commentators the former. The reasons in favor of the former are,
1. The word grace in the context is used in the sense of kind disposition on the part of God, and not in the sense of a gift.
2. The verb in the only other case where it occurs in the New Testament, is used in the sense of showing favor. Luke 1:28: “Hail, thou favored one!”
3. The parallel passage and analogous expression Ephesians 2:4 is in favor of this interpretation. There it is said, “His great love wherewith he hath loved us,” and here the same idea is expressed by saying, ‘His grace wherein he favored us, or which he has exercised towards us.’
4. The whole context demands this interpretation. The apostle is speaking of the love or grace of God as manifested in our redemption. He has predestinated us to the adoption of sons to the praise of the glory of his grace; which grace he has exercised towards us, in the remission of sins. The same idea is expressed Ephesians 2:7, where it is said, God hath quickened us, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us, through Jesus Christ. “To make accepted,” therefore, here means, to accept, to treat with favor; or rather, such is the meaning of the apostle’s language; gratia amplexus est, as the word is rendered by Bengel. To which agrees the explanation of Beza: gratis nos sibi acceptos effecit.
This grace is exercised towards us in the Beloved. In ourselves we are unworthy. All kindness towards us is of the nature of grace. Christ is the beloved for his own sake; and it is to us only as in him and for his sake that the grace of God is manifested. This is a truth which the apostle keeps constantly in view, Ephesians 2:5-7.
In whom we have redemption. In whom, i.e. not in ourselves. We are not self-redeemed. Christ is our Redeemer. The word redemption, ἀπολύτρωσις, means deliverance in the general, without reference to the mode in which it is accomplished. When used of the work of Christ it is always to be understood in its strict sense, viz. deliverance by ransom; because this particular mode of redemption is always either expressed or implied. We are redeemed neither by power, nor truth, but by blood; that is, by the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. A sacrifice is a ransom, as to its effect. It delivers those for whom it is offered and accepted. The words διὰ τοῦ αἵματὸς αὐτὸυ, by his blood, are explanatory of the words in whom. In whom, i.e. by means of his blood. They serve to explain the method in which Christ redeems.
The redemption of which the apostle here speaks is not the inward deliverance from sin, but it is an outward work, viz. the forgiveness of sins, as the words τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων necessarily mean. It is true this is not the whole of redemption, but it is all the sacred writer here brings into view, because forgiveness is the immediate end of expiation. Though this clause is in apposition with the preceding, it is by no means coextensive with it. So in Romans 8:23, where believers are said to be waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body, the two clauses are not coextensive in meaning. The redemption of the body does not exhaust the idea of adoption. Neither in this passage does the forgiveness of sin exhaust the idea of redemption. This passage is often quoted in controversy to prove that justification is merely pardon.
This redemption is not only gratuitous, but it is, in all its circumstances, an exhibition and therefore a proof of the riches of his grace. The word πλοῦτος, riches in such connections as a favorite one with the apostle, who speaks of the riches of glory, the riches of wisdom, and the exceeding riches of grace. It is the overflowing abundance of unmerited love, inexhaustible in God and freely accessible through Christ. There is, therefore, nothing incompatible between redemption, i.e. deliverance on the ground of a ransom (or a complete satisfaction to justice), and grace. The grace consists—
l. In providing this satisfaction and in accepting it in behalf of sinners.
2 In accepting those who are entirely destitute of merit.
3. In bestowing this redemption and all its benefits without regard to the comparative goodness of men.
It is not because one is wiser, better, or more noble than others, that he is made a partaker of this grace; but God chooses the foolish, the ignorant, and those who are of no account, that they who glory may glory only in the Lord.
Wherein he hath abounded towards us,
In all wisdom and prudence,
1. They may be connected with the preceding verb and qualify the action of God therein expressed. God, in the exercise of wisdom and prudence, has abounded in grace towards us.
2. They may be connected with the following clause: ‘In all wisdom and prudence making known, etc.’
3. They may be connected with the preceding relative pronoun. ‘Which (grace) in connection with, or together with, all wisdom and prudence he has caused to abound.’ That is, the grace manifested by God and received by us, is received in connection with the divine wisdom or knowledge of which the subsequent clause goes on to speak.
This last explanation seems decidedly preferable because the terms here used, particularly the word
The wisdom then which the apostle says God has communicated to us, is the divine wisdom in the Gospel, the mystery of redemption, which had been hid for ages in God, but which he has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. See the glorious doxology for this revelation contained in Romans 16:25-27. Indeed this whole Epistle to the Ephesians is a thanksgiving to God for the communication of this mysterious wisdom. Mysterious, not so much in the sense of incomprehensible, as in that of undiscoverable by human reason, and a matter of divine revelation. With wisdom the apostle connects
God has caused this wisdom to abound, or has communicated it, having made shown unto us the mystery of his will,
In the present case the mystery of his will means his secret purpose; that purpose of redemption, which having been hid for ages, he has now graciously revealed.
According to his good pleasure,
This verse is beset with difficulties. The general sense seems to be this: The purpose spoken of in the preceding verse had reference to the scheme of redemption; the design of which is to unite all the subjects of redemption, as one harmonious body, under Jesus Christ.
1. To reduce to one sum, i.e. to sum up, to recapitulate. Romans 13:9 : ‘All the commands are summed up in, or under, one precept.’
2. To unite under one head; or,
3. To renew.
Many of the Fathers adopt the last signification in this place, and consider this passage as parallel with Romans 8:19-22. Through Christ God purposes to restore or renovate all things; to effect a
1. Some understand them to include the whole creation, material and spiritual, and apply the passage to the final restoration of all things; or to that redemption of the creature from the bondage of corruption of which the apostle speaks in Romans 8:19-22.
2. Others restrict the “all things” to all intelligent creatures — good and bad, angels and men — fallen spirits and the finally impenitent. In this view the reduction to unity, here spoken of, is understood by the advocates of the restoration of all things to the favor of God, to refer to the destruction of all sin and the banishment of all misery from the universe. But those who believe that the Scriptures teach that the fallen angels and the finally impenitent among men, are not to be restored to holiness and happiness, and who give the phrase “all things” the wide sense just mentioned, understand the apostle to refer to the final triumph of Christ over all his enemies, of which he speaks in 1 Corinthians 15:23-28. All things in heaven above, in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, are to be made subject to Christ; but this subjection will be either voluntary or coerced. The good will joyfully acknowledge his supremacy; the evil he will restrain and confine, that they no longer trouble or pervert his people.
3. Others again understand the words under consideration, of all good angels and men. The inhabitants of heaven, or the angels, and the inhabitants of the earth, or the saints, are to be united as a harmonious whole under Jesus Christ.
4. The words are restricted to the members of the human family; and the distinction between those in heaven and those on earth, is supposed to refer to the Jews and Gentiles, who, having been so long separated, are under the Gospel and by the redemption of Christ, united in one body in him. The Jews are said to be in heaven because in the kingdom of heaven, or the theocracy; and the Gentiles are said to be on earth, or in the world as distinguished from the church.
5. The words may be confined to the people of God, the redeemed from among men, some of whom are now in heaven and others are still on earth. The whole body of the redeemed are to be gathered together in one, so that there shall be one fold and one shepherd. The form of expression is analogous to Ephesians 3:15, where the apostle speaks of the whole family in heaven and earth.
The decision which of these several interpretations is to be adopted, depends mainly on the nature of the union here spoken of, and on the means by which it is accomplished. If the union is merely union under a triumphant king, effected by his power converting some and coercing others, then of course we must understand the passage as referring to all intelligent creatures. But if the union spoken of be a union with God, involving conformity to his image and the enjoyment of his favor, and effected by the redemption of Christ, then the terms here employed must be restricted to the subjects of redemption. And then if the Scriptures teach that all men and even fallen angels are redeemed by Christ, and restored to the favor of God, they must be included in the all things in heaven and earth here spoken of. If the Scriptures teach that good angels are the subjects of redemption, then they must be comprehended in the scope of this passage.‹1› But if the doctrine of the Bible be, that only a certain portion of the human family are redeemed and saved by the blood of Christ, then to them alone can the passage be understood to refer. In order therefore to establish the correctness of the fifth interpretation mentioned above, all that is necessary is to prove, first, that the passage speaks of that union which is effected by the redemption of Christ; and secondly, that the church alone is the subject of redemption.
That the passage does speak of that union which is effected by redemption, may be argued —
1. From the context. Paul, as we have seen, gives thanks first for the election of God’s people; secondly, for their actual redemption; thirdly, for the revelation of the gracious purpose of God relative to their redemption. It is of the redemption of the elect, therefore, that the whole context treats.
2. Secondly, the union here spoken of is a union in Christ. God has purposed “to gather together all things in Christ.” The things in heaven and the things on earth are to be united in Him. But believers alone, the members of his body, are ever said to be in Christ. It is not true that angels good or bad, or the whole mass of mankind are in Him in any scriptural sense of that expression.
3. The word here used expresses directly or indirectly the idea of the union of all things under Christ as their head. Christ is not the head of angels, nor of the material universe in the sense in which the context here demands. He is the head of his body, i.e. his church. It is therefore only of the redemption of the church of which this passage can be understood.
4. The obviously parallel passage in Colossians 1:20 seems decisive on this point. It is there said: “It pleased the Father …. having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” From this passage it is plain that the union to be effected is a reconciliation, which implies previous alienation, and a reconciliation effected by the blood of the cross. It is, therefore, not a union of subjection merely to the same Lord, but it is one effected by the blood of Christ, and consequently the passage can be understood only of the subjects of redemption.
That the church or people of God, excluding angels good or bad, and the finally impenitent among men, are alone the subjects of redemption, is proved, as to evil angels and impenitent men, by the numerous passages of Scripture which speak of their final destruction; and as to good angels, by the entire silence of Scripture as to their being redeemed by Christ, and by the nature of the work itself. Redemption, in the scriptural sense, is deliverance from sin and misery, and therefore cannot be predicated of those angels who kept their first estate.
These considerations exclude all the interpretations above enumerated except the fourth and fifth. The fourth, which supposes the passage to refer to the union of the Jews and Gentiles, is excluded by its opposition to the uniform language of Scripture. The Jews are never designated as ‘inhabitants of heaven.’ It is in violation of all usage, therefore, to suppose they are here indicated by that phrase. Nothing therefore remains but the assumption that the apostle refers to the union of all the people of God, i.e. of all the redeemed, in one body under Jesus Christ their head. They are to be constituted an everlasting kingdom; or, according to another symbol — a living temple, of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
God having formed and revealed the purpose of gathering the redeemed as one body in Christ, it is in the execution of this purpose, the apostle says:
Have obtained an inheritance. The word
1. Some prefer the sense to choose: ‘In whom we also were chosen, as it were, but not, i.e. freely.’ The Vulgate translates the passage: Sorte vocati sumus; and Erasmus: Sorte electi sumus.
2. As in the Old Testament the people of God are called his inheritance, many suppose the apostle has reference to that usage and meant to say: ‘In whom we have become the inheritance of God.’
3. The majority of commentators prefer the interpretation adopted in our version: ‘In whom we have obtained an inheritance.’
This view is sustained by the following considerations.
1. Though the verb is in the passive, the above rendering may be justified either by the remark of Grotius: as the active form signifies to give a possession, the passive may signify to accept it;‹2› or by a reference to that usage of the passive voice illustrated in such passages as Romans 3:2; Galatians 2:7. With verbs, which in the active have the accusative and dative, in the passive construction what was in the dative, becomes the nominative. Hence
2. The inheritance of which the apostle speaks in the context, as in Ephesians 1:14 and Ephesians 1:18, is that which believers enjoy. They are not themselves the inheritance, they are the heirs. Therefore in this place it is more natural to understand him as referring to what believers attain in Christ, than to their becoming the inheritance of God. As the Israelites of old obtained an inheritance in the promised land, so those in Christ become partakes of that heavenly inheritance which he has secured for them. To this analogy such frequent reference is made in Scripture as to leave little doubt as to the meaning of this passage.
3. The parallel passage in Colossians 1:12, also serves to determine the sense of the clause under consideration. What is there expressed by saying: ‘Hath made us partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;’ is here expressed by saying: ‘We have obtained an inheritance,’
There are two sentiments with which the mind of the apostle was thoroughly imbued. The one is, a sense of the absolute supremacy of God, and the other a corresponding sense of the dependence of man and the consequent conviction of the entirely gratuitous nature of all the benefits of redemption. To these sentiments he seldom fails to give expression on any fit occasion. In the present instance having said we have in Christ obtained a glorious inheritance, the question suggests itself, Why? His answer is: Having been predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. It is neither by chance nor by our own desert or efforts, that we, and not others, have been thus highly favored. It has been brought about according to the purpose and by the efficiency of God. What has happened He predetermined should occur, and to his “working” the event is to be exclusively referred. We are said to be predestinated,
1. That what occurs was foreseen and foreordained. The plan of God embraced and ordered the events here referred to.
2. That the ground or reason of these occurrences is to be sought in God, in the determination of his will.
This however is not a singular case. The bringing certain persons to the enjoyment of the inheritance purchased by Christ, is not the only thing foreordained by God and brought about by his efficiency, and, therefore, the apostle generalizes the truth here expressed, by saying: ‘We are predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.’ Everything is comprehended in his purpose, and everything is ordered by his efficient control. That control, however, is exercised in accordance with the nature of his creatures, so that no violence is done to the constitution which he has given them. He is glorified, and his purposes are accomplished without any injustice or violence.
The counsel of his will,
That we should be to the praise of his glory,
The construction of these several clauses adopted in the foregoing exposition is that which takes them in their natural order, and gives a sense consistent with the usage of the words and agreeable to the analogy of Scripture. The first clause of this verse is made to depend upon the last clause of Ephesians 1:11 : ‘Having predestinated us to be the praise of his glory;’ and the last clause, ‘Who first hoped in Christ,’ is merely explanatory of the class of persons spoken of. The whole then hangs naturally together: ‘We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestinated to be the praise of his glory, we, who first hoped in Christ.’ There are, however, two other modes of construction possible. The one connects the beginning of Ephesians 1:12 with the first clause of Ephesians 1:11, and renders
The apostle having in Ephesians 1:10 declared that the purpose of God is to bring all the subjects of redemption into one harmonious body, says in Ephesians 1:11 that this purpose is realized in the conversion of the Jewish Christians, and he here adds that another class, viz. the Gentile Christians, to whom his epistle is specially addressed, are comprehended in the same purpose. The first clause,
1. Our translators borrow the verb
2. Others supply simply the verb are. ‘In whom you also are.’ This is better, but it is liable to the latter objection just mentioned.
3. Others make you the nominative to the verb were sealed in the following clause. — ‘In whom you also (having heard, etc.) were sealed.’ But this requires the clauses to be broken by a parenthesis. It supposes also the contraction to be irregular, for the words in whom also are repeated before the verb ye were sealed. The passage according to this construction would read, ‘In whom ye also, — in whom also ye were sealed.’ Besides, the sealing is not the first benefit the Gentile Christians received. They were first brought into union with Christ and made partakers of his inheritance and then sealed.
4. It is therefore more consistent not only with the drift of the whole passage, and with the relation between this verse and Ephesians 1:11, but also with the construction of this and the following verse to supply the word
The clause that follows expresses the means by which the Gentile Christians were brought to be partakers of this inheritance. — ‘In whom ye also have obtained an inheritance.
In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed. This is more than a translation, it is an exposition of the original,
There are several purposes for which a seal is used.
1. To authenticate or confirm as genuine and true.
2. To mark as one’s property.
3. To render secure.
In all these senses believers are sealed. They are authenticated as the true children of God; they have the witness within themselves, 1 John 5:10; Romans 8:16; Romans 5:5. They are thus assured of their reconciliation and acceptance. They are moreover marked as belonging to God, Revelation 7:3; that is, they are indicated to others, by the seal impressed upon them, as his chosen ones. And thirdly, they are sealed unto salvation; i.e. they are rendered certain of being saved. The sealing of God secures their safety. Thus believers are said Ephesians 4:30, “to be sealed unto the day of redemption;” and in 2 Corinthians 1:21, the apostle says: “Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who also hath sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” The sealing then of which this passage speaks answers all these ends. It assures of the favor of God; it indicates those who belong to him; and it renders their salvation certain.
This sealing is by the Holy Spirit of promise. That is, by the Spirit who was promised; or who comes in virtue of the promise. This promise was given frequently through the ancient prophets, who predicted that when the Messiah came and in virtue of his mediation, God would pour his Spirit on all flesh. Christ when on earth frequently repeated this promise; assuring his disciples that when he had gone to the Father, he would send them the Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, to abide with them forever. After his resurrection he commanded the apostles to abide in Jerusalem until they had received “the promise of the Father,” Acts 1:4; meaning thereby the gift of the Holy Ghost. In Galatians 3:14, it is said to be the end for which Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, that we should receive the promise of the Spirit. This then is the great gift which Christ secures for his people; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as the source of truth, holiness, consolation, and eternal life.
This Spirit is
Until the redemption of the purchased possession,
The word redemption, in its Christian sense, sometimes means that deliverance from the curse of the law and restoration to the favor of God, of which believers are in this life the subjects. Sometimes it refers to that final deliverance from all evil, which is to take a place at the second advent of Christ. Thus in Luke 21:28, “They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory; … then lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Romans 8:23; Ephesians 4:30. There can be no doubt that it here refers to this final deliverance.
The word rendered purchased possession, is
Unto the praise of his glory, i.e. that his glory or excellence should be praised. Compare Ephesians 1:6 and Ephesians 1:12. This is the end both of the final redemption and of the present acceptance of believers. This clause, therefore, is to be referred to the whole of the preceding passage. Ye have received an inheritance, have been sealed, and have received the Holy Spirit as an earnest, in order that God may be glorified. This is the last and highest end of redemption.
Having in the preceding Section unfolded the nature of those blessings of which the Ephesians had become partakers, the apostle gives thanks to God for their conversion, and assures them of their interest in his prayers, Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 1:16. He prays that God would give them that wisdom and knowledge of himself of which the Spirit is the author, Ephesians 1:17; that their eyes might be enlightened properly to apprehend the nature and value of that hope which is founded in the call of God; and the glory of the inheritance to be enjoyed among the saints, Ephesians 1:18; and the greatness of that power which had been already exercised in their conversion, Ephesians 1:19. The power which effected their spiritual resurrection, was the same as that which raised Christ from the dead, and exalted him above all created beings and associated him in the glory and dominion of God, Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 1:21. To him all things are made subject, and he is constituted the supreme head of the church, which is his body, the fullness or complement of the mystical person of him who fills the universe with his presence and power, Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23.
Wherefore. This word is to be referred either to the whole preceding paragraph, or specially to Ephesians 1:13. ‘Because you Ephesians, you Gentile Christians, have obtained a portion in this inheritance, and, after having believed, have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, etc.’ — ‘I also, i.e. as well as others, and especially yourselves.’ The Ephesians might well be expected to be filled with gratitude for their conversion. The apostle assures them he joins them in their perpetual thanksgiving over this glorious event.
Having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus. As Paul was the founder of the church in Ephesus and had labored long in that city, it has always excited remark that he should speak of having heard of their faith, as though he had no personal acquaintance with them. This form of expression is one of the reasons why many have adopted the opinion, as mentioned in the Introduction, that this epistle was addressed not to the Ephesians alone or principally, but to all the churches in the western part of Asia Minor. It is, however, not unnatural that the apostle should speak thus of so large and constantly changing a congregation, after having been for a time absent from them. Besides, the expression need mean nothing more than that he continued to hear of their good estate. The two leading graces of the Christian character are faith and love — faith in Christ and love to the brethren. Of these, therefore, the apostle here speaks. Your faith;
In the Old Testament the phrases, the Lord said, the Lord did, our Lord, and the like, are of constant occurrence; and are used only, in this general way, of the Supreme God. We never hear of the Lord, nor our Lord, when reference is had to Moses or any other of the prophets. In the New Testament, however, what is so common in the Old Testament in reference to God, is no less common in reference to Christ. He is the Lord; the Lord Jesus; our Lord, etc., etc. It is this constant mode of speaking, together with the exhibition of his divine excellence, and holding him up as the object of faith and love, even more than any particular declaration, which conveys to the Christian reader the conviction of his true divinity. His being the object of faith and the ground of trust to immortal beings, is irreconcilable with any other assumption than that he is the true God and eternal life.
And love towards all the saints, i.e. towards those who are saints; those who have been cleansed, separated from the world, and consecrated to God. This love is founded upon the character and relations of its objects as the people of God, and therefore it embraces all the saints.
I cease not giving thanks for you, making mention of you, etc. This does not mean, ‘praying I give thanks;’ but two things are mentioned constant thanksgiving on their account, and intercession.
The burden of his prayer is contained in this and the verses following. The object of his prayer, or the person to whom it is addressed, is designated, first, as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. the God whose work Christ came to do, by whom he was sent, of whom he testified and to whom he has gone; and secondly,
There are three leading petitions expressed in the prayer here recorded. First, for adequate knowledge of divine truth. Second, for due appreciation of the future blessedness of the saints. Third, for a proper understanding of what they themselves had already experienced in their conversion.
His first prayer is thus expressed: That he may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. By
1. Because the Holy Spirit is so constantly recognized as the source of all right knowledge; and
2. Because the analogy of Scripture is in favor of this view of the passage.
In such passages as the following the word spirit evidently is to be understood of the Holy Spirit. John 15:26, “Spirit of truth;” Romans 8:15, “Spirit of adoption;” Compare Galatians 4:6, “God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father;” 1 Thessalonians 1:6, “Joy of the Holy Spirit;” Romans 15:30, “Love of the Spirit;” Galatians 5:5, “We by the Spirit wait,” etc. The Holy Spirit is the author of that wisdom of which the apostle speaks so fully in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; and which he describes, first negatively as not of this world, and then affirmatively, as the hidden wisdom of God, which he had revealed, by the Spirit, for our glory. It is the whole system of divine truth, which constitutes the Gospel. Those who have this wisdom are the wise. There is a twofold revelation of this wisdom, the one outward, by inspiration, or through inspired men; the other inward, by spiritual illumination. Of both these the apostle speaks in 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, and both are here brought into view. Compare Philippians 3:15. By
In the knowledge of him. The pronoun him refers not to Christ, but to God the immediate subject in this context. The word
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened. Instead of
The residue of this verse
That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, i.e. the hope of which his calling is the source; or to which he has called you. The vocation here spoken of is not merely the external call of the Gospel, but the effectual call of God by the Spirit, to which the word
And what the riches of the glory of his inheritance,
In the saints,
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe. This is the third petition in the apostle’s prayer. He prays that his readers may have right apprehensions of the greatness of the change which they had experienced. It was no mere moral reformation effected by rational considerations; nor was it a self-wrought change, but one due to the almighty power of God. Grotius indeed, and commentators of that class, understand the passage to refer to the exertion of the power of God in the future resurrection and salvation of believers. But
1. It evidently refers to the past and not to the future. It is something which believers, as believers, had already experienced that he wished them to understand.
2. The apostle never compares the salvation of believers with the resurrection of Christ, whereas the analogy between his natural resurrection and the spiritual resurrection of his people, is one to which he often refers.
3. This is the analogy which he insists upon in this immediate connection. As God raised Christ from the dead and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places; so you, that were dead in sins, hath he quickened and raised you up together in him. This analogy is the very thing he would have them understand. They had undergone a great change; they had been brought to life; they had been raised from the dead by the same almighty power which wrought in Christ. There was as great a difference between their present and their former condition, as between Christ in the tomb and Christ at the right hand of God. This was something which they ought to know.
4. The parallel passage in Colossians 2:12, seems decisive of this interpretation. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”
In this passage it cannot be doubted that the apostle compares the spiritual resurrection of believers with the resurrection of Christ, and refers both events to the operation of God, or to the divine power. Such also is doubtless the meaning of the passage before us; and in this interpretation there has been a remarkable coincidence of judgment among commentators. Chrysostom says: “The conversion of souls is more wonderful than the resurrection of the dead.” Oecumenius remarks on this passage: “To raise us from spiritual death is an exercise of the same power that raised Christ from natural death.” Calvin says, “Some (i.e. Stulti homines) regard the language of the apostle in this passage as frigid hyperbole, but those who are properly exercised find nothing here beyond the truth.” He adds: “Lest believers should be cast down under a sense of their unworthiness, the apostle recalls them to a consideration of the power of God; as though he had said, their regeneration is a work of God, and no common work, but one in which his almighty power is wonderfully displayed.” Luther, in reference to the parallel passage in Colossians, uses the following language: “Faith is no such easy matter as our opposers imagine, when they say, ‘Believe, Believe, how easy is it to believe.’ Neither is it a mere human work, which I can perform for myself, but it is a divine power in the heart, by which we are new born, and whereby we are able to overcome the mighty power of the Devil and of death; as Paul says to the Colossians, ‘In whom ye are raised up again through the faith which God works.’”
It is then a great truth which the apostle here teaches. He prays that his readers may properly understand
According to the working of his mighty power,
The connection of this clause is somewhat doubtful. It may be referred to the words exceeding greatness of his power, i.e.
In the other, it expresses more definitely the reason why the power which they had experienced was to be considered so great, viz., because their faith was due to the same energy that raised Christ from the dead. In either case the doctrinal import of the passage is the same. The considerations in favor of the latter mode of construction are:
1. The position of the clauses. According to this interpretation they are taken just as they stand. ‘Us who believe in virtue of (
2. The frequency with which the apostle uses the preposition
3. The parallel passage in Colossians 2:12, expresses the same idea. There the phrase is
The prayer recorded in these verses is a very comprehensive one. In praying that the Ephesians might be enlightened with spiritual apprehensions of the truth, the apostle prays for their sanctification. In praying that they might have just conceptions of the inheritance to which they were called, he prayed that they might be elevated above the world. And in praying that they might know the exceeding greatness of the power exercised in their conversion, he prayed that they might be at once humble and confident; humble, in view of the death of sin from which they had been raised; and confident, in view of the omnipotence of that God who had begun their salvation.
Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead,
And caused him to sit at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Kings place at their right hand those whom they design to honor, or whom they associate with themselves in dominion. No creature can be thus associated in honor and authority with God, and therefore to none of the angels hath he ever said: Sit thou at my right hand. Hebrews 1:13. That divine honor and authority are expressed by sitting at the right hand of God, is further evident from those passages which speak of the extent of that dominion and of the nature of that honor to which the exalted Redeemer is entitled. It is an universal dominion. Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9; 1 Peter 3:22; and it is such honor as is due to God alone. John 5:23.
The immediate subject of discourse in this chapter is the blessings of redemption conferred on believers. The resurrection and exaltation of Christ are introduced incidentally by way of illustration. The apostle dwells for a moment on the nature of this exaltation, and on the relation of Christ, at the right hand of God, to his church, and then, at the beginning of the following chapter, reverts to his main topic.
The subject of the exaltation here spoken of is not the Logos, but Christ; the Theanthropos, or God-man. The possession of divine perfections was the necessary condition of this exaltation because, as just remarked, the nature and extent of the dominion granted to him, demand such perfections. It is a dominion not only absolutely universal, but it extends over the heart and conscience, and requires the obedience not only of the outward conduct but of the inward life, which is due to God alone. We therefore find the divine nature of Christ presented in the Scriptures as the reason of his being invested with this peculiar dominion. Thus in the second Psalm, it is said, “Thou art my Son; ask of me, I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, etc.” That is because thou art my son, ask and I will give thee this dominion. And in the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, it is said, The Son, being the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high. That is, because he is of the same nature with the Father and possesses the same almighty power, he is associated with him in his dominion. While the divine nature of Christ is the necessary condition of his exaltation, his mediatorial work is the immediate ground of the Theanthropos, God manifested in the flesh, being invested with this universal dominion. This is expressly asserted, as in Philippians 2:9. Though equal with God, he humbled himself to become obedient unto death, wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.
In illustration of the exaltation of Christ mentioned in Ephesians 1:20, the apostle here says, He is seated
And every name, i.e., as the connection shows, every name of excellence or honor, that is named. That is, above every creature bearing such name as prince, potentate, ruler, or whatever other title there may be.
Not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,
And hath put all things under his feet. Christ is not only exalted above all creatures, but he has dominion over them; all are placed in absolute subjection to him. They are under his feet. This passage is a quotation from Psalms 8:7. It is applied to Christ by this same apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:27, and Hebrews 2:8. In both of these passages the word all is pressed to the full extent of its meaning. It is made to include all creatures, all capable of subjection; all beings save God alone, are made subject to man in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords, and King of kings.
There are two principles on which the application of this passage of Psalms 8:1-9 to Christ may be explained. The one is that the Psalm is a prophetic exhibition of the goodness of God to Christ, and of the dominion to be given to him. There is nothing, however, in the contents of the Psalm to favor the assumption of its having special reference to the Messiah. The other principle admits the reference of the Psalm to men generally, but assumes its full meaning to be what the apostle here declares it to be, viz., that the dominion which belongs to man is nothing less than universal. But this dominion is realized only in the Man Christ Jesus, and in those who are associated with him in his kingdom. This latter mode of explanation satisfies all the exigencies both of the original Psalm and of the passages where it is quoted in the New Testament.
And gave him to be head over all things to the church,
The sense in which Christ is the head of the church, is that he is the source of its life, its supreme ruler, ever present with it, sympathizing with it, and loving it as a man loves his own flesh. See Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:29; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:17. Intimate union, dependence, and community of life, are the main ideas expressed by this figure.
Which is his body. This is the radical, or formative idea of the church. From this idea are to be developed its nature, its attributes, and its prerogatives. It is the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, that constitutes the church his body. And, therefore, those only in whom the Spirit dwells are constituent members of the true church. But the Spirit does not dwell in church officers, nor especially in prelates, as such; nor in the baptized, as such; nor in the mere external professors of the true religion, but in true believers, who therefore constitute that church which is the body of Christ, and to which its attributes and prerogatives belong.
The main question which this verse presents for consideration is: In what sense is the church the fullness of Christ? There are, however, two other points which must be previously determined. In the first place, it is the church, and not Christ to whom the word fullness here refers. Some commentators adopt the following interpretation of the passage: ‘Christ, the supreme head to the church (which is his body), the fullness, i.e. Christ is the fullness, of him that filleth all in all.’ But
1. This interpretation violates the grammatical construction of the passage.
2. It rends the clauses very unnaturally asunder.
3. It assumes that the last clause of the verse, viz. ‘who fills all in all,’ refers to God, whereas it refers to Christ.
4. The sense thus obtained is unscriptural. The fullness of the Godhead is said to be in Christ; but Christ is never said to be the fullness of God.
In the second place, the church is here declared to be the fullness of Christ, and not the fullness of God. — Some commentators understand the passage thus: ‘The church, which is the body of Christ, is the fullness of him who fills all in all, i.e. of God.’ But to this it is objected,
1. That the construction of the passage requires that the last clause in the verse be referred to Christ; and
2. This interpretation supposes the word
But this is a signification which the word never has in itself, but only in virtue of the word with which it is at times connected. The expression
There are two opinions as to the meaning of this phrase, between which commentators are principally divided. First, the church may be called the fullness of Christ, because it is filled by him. As the body is filled, or pervaded by the soul, so the church is filled by the Spirit of Christ. Or, as God of old dwelt in the temple, and filled it with his glory, so Christ now dwells in his church and fills it with his presence. The sense is then good and scriptural. ‘The church is filled by him, who fills all in all.’ Or secondly, the church is the fullness of Christ, because it fills him, i.e. completes his mystical person. He is the head, the church is the body. It is the complement, or that which completes, or renders whole. As both these interpretations give a sense that is scriptural and consistent with the context, the choice between them must be decided principally by the New Testament usage of the word
In favor of the other interpretation it may be urged, —
2. The meaning thus afforded is preferable. It is a more scriptural and more intelligible statement, to say that Christ fills his church, as the soul pervades the body — or as the glory of the Lord filled the temple, than to say that the church in any sense fills Christ.
That filleth all in all,
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent