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After the salutation, and thanksgiving for the Ephesians, he treateth of election and adoption by grace: and, because the height of this mystery cannot easily be attained unto, he prayeth that they may come to the full knowledge and possession thereof in Christ.
Anno Domini 62.
BECAUSE the Ephesians, in their heathen state, had held the mysteries of their idol gods in the higher veneration, on account of the supposed importance of the discoveries which were made in them to the initiated; and because they esteemed the initiated, on account of these discoveries, more honourable and happy than the rest of mankind, the Apostle began this Epistle with displaying the great dignity and happiness of the members of the Christian church, whether Jews or Gentiles; not by a formal declaration of their honours and privileges, but by thanksgivings to God, for having bestowed these great honours and privileges on them. Thus, first of all, he thanked God for his having blessed the Gentiles with every spiritual blessing in the Christian church, equally with the Jews, although they did notobey the law of Moses, Ephesians 1:3.—And, because the Judaizing teachers affirmed, that this was contrary to God's purpose respecting the Jews, the Apostle, in his thanksgiving, took notice, that God had bestowed these blessings on the Gentiles, as well as on the Jews, agreeably to an election of them before the foundation of the world, that they might be holy through love to God, on account of his great goodness to them, and through love to man from a regard to the commandment of God, Ephesians 1:4.—Next, he thanked God for having predestinated holy persons, of all nations, to be his own children; that is, to be the objects of his love, and the heirs of his happiness, not through obedience to the law of Moses, but through faith in Jesus Christ, agreeably to his own benevolence, Ephesians 1:5.—which is now made known by the gospel, in order that men may gratefully praise him for his goodness, which is admirably displayed by the great favour shewn to them on account of his beloved Son, Ephesians 1:6.—by whose blood, or death, and not through the sacrifices either of Judaism or of Heathenism, we, his Sons, shall obtain redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins, according to the greatness of his goodness, Ephesians 1:7.—the knowledge of which, St. Paul told the Ephesians, God had made to abound in all genuine Christians, particularly in the apostles, together with sufficient wisdom and prudence to fit them for publishing it to the world, ver.
Having mentioned the knowledge of the goodness of God in the redemption, St. Paul blessed God particularly for having made known to them the mystery of his will concerning his pardoning sins through the blood of Christ, and his making the Gentiles heirs of the inheritance of heaven, through faith, equally with the Jews, agreeably to his own benevolent purpose, which he had formed from the beginning, of his own accord, Ephesians 1:9.—Here it is proper to observe, that the riches of God's goodness, in resolving to pardon men's sins through the blood, or death of his Son, and to bestow that great blessing on the Gentiles equally with the Jews, are called, in this place, the mystery of God's will, because these things had hitherto been kept secret, Romans 16:25, and because they were discoveries of infinitely greater importance to mankind, and much more certain, than all the discoveries made to the initiated, in the most famed of the heathen mysteries. May we not, therefore, suppose, that this honourable appellation was given by the Apostle to the gospel, to render it venerable in the eyes of the Ephesians, and of all the Gentiles, who admired the heathen mysteries?—Farther, the Apostle told them, that God's benevolent intention, in making known to him, and to his brethren apostles, the mystery of his will, was, that, by their publishing it to the world, he might, in the gospel dispensation, gather together Jews and Gentiles into one church, or fellowship, under Christ, Ephesians 1:10.—That by faith in him, and not by obedience to the law of Moses, the Jews themselves might inherit the blessings promised in the covenant to the spiritual seed of Abraham; to whichblessingshehad predestinated believers of all nations, agreeably to his purpose, who bringeth all things to pass, not according to the will of any man, or body of men, but according to his own sovereign pleasure, Ephesians 1:11.—And, in particular, that the believing Jews might occasion praise to God for his goodness and truth in the performance of his promises, by receiving the inheritance as a free gift through faith, and not as a debt through the law, Ephesians 1:12.—By whom, (namely, by the Christ,) ye Gentiles also have inherited the promises made to the spiritual seed of Abraham, having believed the word of truth, even the good news of your salvation, which was preached to you: by whom, also, after ye believed, ye were sealed as God's children and heirs, with the Holy Spirit; so that ye can have no doubt of your salvation being by faith, without obedience to the law of Moses, Ephesians 1:13.—Which Holy Spirit, therefore, to believers, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, is the earnest, or assurance, that the inheritance shall be bestowed on the faithful; and is to continue in the church until the complete redemption of the faithful saints—a redemption purchased by the blood of Christ, and consummated at the general resurrection, Ephesians 1:14.—Thus it appears, that the honours and privileges belonging to believers, as the children of God, and asmembers of the Christian church, or fellowship, are infinitely greater and more valuable than those of which the initiated, or members of the heathen fellowships, boasted.
After displaying the great excellency of the gospel revelation, and the honours and privileges belonging to the members of the Christian church, and tacitly contrasting these with the heathen mysteries, and with the privileges of the initiated, the Apostle told the Ephesians, that the good news which he had received of their faith and love, made him daily give thanks to God on account of their happy state, Ephesians 1:15-16.—and pray to God to give them both true wisdom and revealed knowledge, in order that they might continue to acknowledge Christ as their Saviour, notwithstanding they should be persecuted for so doing, Ephesians 1:17.—also that he would enlighten the eyes of their understanding, that they might knowthe greatness of those privileges, which, by calling them into his fellowship, he had taught them to expect; and know likewise the glory of the inheritance which he had prepared for his children, the saints, Ephesians 1:18.—and what the exceeding greatness of his power is, with respect to his faithful people, in making them at present alive from their trespasses and sins, (chap. Ephesians 2:5.) and in raising them hereafter from the dead to enjoy the inheritance; of which power, the Apostle told them, God hath already given an illustrious example, in raising Christ, the head of the Christian fellowship, from the dead, and setting him down at his own right hand, Ephesians 1:19-20.—far above all the different orders of angels in heaven, and potentates on earth, Ephesians 1:21.—and hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath given him to be head over all things for the benefit of the church, Ephesians 1:22.—which being animated, governed, and protected by him, as the human body is by its head, it is his body, by which his character, as Lord and Saviour of the church, or Christian fellowship, is rendered complete, and is filled by him with all manner of gifts and graces, in order that every member of his body, or fellowship, may grow, under him, in perfection and happiness, Ephesians 1:23.
This sublime account of the resurrection of Christ,the head of the Christian church, or fellowship; and of God's setting him down in his mediatorial character, at his own right hand, as ruler both of the angelical hosts, and of the princes and potentates on earth; and of his putting all things under his feet; and of his making him head over all things for the benefit of the church; and of his being rendered complete, as the head of the Christianfellowship, by the union of its members to him; and of his making them alive from the death of sin; and of his filling them with miraculous gifts and moral graces, was, I think, designed by the Apostle as a contrast, first, to the character and powers of the false gods, worshipped by the heathens as the heads of their fellowships; and, secondly, to the honours, advantages, and privileges which the initiated derived from their participation in these mysteries; and all with a view to make the Ephesians sensible how far inferior, in dignity and happiness, the members of the heathen fellowships were, to the members of the Christian church, which is a fellowship protected and governed by so high and powerful a head as Christ; whom God hath raised, as Mediator in his glorified humanity, to the government of the universe, for the purpose of making the faithful members of this noble fellowship holy and happy through all eternity.
EPHESIANS,] St. Paul passed through Ephesus in the year 54, but without making any stay: the following year he returned thither again, and stayed three years. During his abode there, he completed a very flourishing church of Christians, the first foundations of which had been laid by some inferior teacher. As Ephesus was frequented by persons of distinction from all parts of Asia Minor, St. Paul took the opportunity of preaching in the adjacent countries; and the other churches of Asia were considered as the daughters of the church of Ephesus: so that an Epistle to the Ephesians was, in effect, an Epistle to the other churches of Asia at the same time. St. Paul was carried prisoner to Rome, for the first time, in the year 61; and, during his confinement there, which was not very close, he wrote the Epistles to Philemon, the Colossians, the Ephesians, and the Philippians. Hence all their Epistles bear a great resemblance in their stile and manner. This Epistle was intended to establish the Ephesians in the faith; and, for that purpose, to give them more exalted views of the love of God, and of the excellency and dignity of Jesus Christ; to shew them, that they were saved by grace; and that the Gentiles, however wretched they had been once, now enjoyed equal privileges with the Jews; to encourage them by declaring, with what steadiness the Apostle himself suffered for the truth, and with what earnestness he prayed for their establishment and perseverance in it: and, finally, to engage them to the practice of those duties which became them as Christians. The city of Ephesus was distinguished by peculiar vices and sins, which are alluded to in this Epistle, and in those to Timothy. First, it was the genuine seat of the idolatrous worship of Diana, who was called Σωτειρα, or, "The Saviour-Goddess;" in opposition to which St. Paul calls the true Deity Σωτηρ, or, "The Saviour-God," in his first Epistle to Timothy, ch. Eph 1:1 Ephesians 2:3. Secondly, the Ephesians were remarkable for the practice of superstitious arts, Acts 19:18-19. Thirdly, they were peculiarly vain in their dress, 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Fourthly, they were remarkable for lewdness and drunkenness, and gloried in obscenity of language, Ephesians 5:0. Michaelis thinks that the Christians of Ephesus were also tainted with the errors of the Essenes; an account of which I shall give in my notes on the first Epistle to Timothy. If it be remembered, that the most flourishing sects of philosophers were settled in this place, and in its neighbourhood; that Pythagoras was here; that Samos, where he was born, was an island of Ionia; and that the followers of Parmenides, Zeno, and Democritus, were to be found there, even in the time of Chrysostom; it is not to be doubted that the Apostle would make use of extraordinary caution in writing; and it is evident that this Epistle is full of the sublimest doctrines, and written in a stile equal to the nobleness of his sentiments, and the learning of those to whom it was addressed. Though this, perhaps, at first sight, may render his meaning a little obscure, yet, by the assistance of the two following Epistles,—which were both written while he was in the same circumstances, upon the same occasion, and to the same purpose;—the sense and doctrine of the Apostle here may be so clearly seen, and so perfectly comprehended, that there can be hardly any doubt left about it, to any one who will examine them diligently, and carefully compare them together.
Ephesians 1:1. To the faithful in Christ Jesus:— Some have understood this as an intimation, that the Christians at Ephesus were remarkablyfaithful to Christ in relying on him alone for salvation, without that attachment to the Mosaic law which was to be found in some other churches, and particularly among the Galatians. But as he uses the same title when addressing the Colossians (Colossians 1:2.), whom yet he reproves on this very account (Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:20.), I can lay no stress upon that criticism.
Ephesians 1:3.— The two first verses contain St. Paul's inscription, or introduction, to his Epistle; and thence to Eph 1:14 he proceeds to thank God for his grace and bounty to the Gentiles; wherein he so sets forth both God's gracious purpose of bringing the Gentiles into his kingdom under the Messiah, and his actual bestowing on them blessings of all kinds in Jesus Christ, for their complete re-instation in that his heavenly kingdom, that there could be nothing stronger suggested to make the Ephesians, and other Gentiles, converts, give up all thoughts of the Mosaic law; and that much inferior kingdom of his, established upon theMosaic institution, and adapted to a little canton of the earth, and a small tribe of men; as not necessary to be retained under this more spiritual institution, and celestial kingdom, erected under Jesus Christ;—a kingdom intended to comprehend men of all nations, and to extend itself to the utmost bounds of the earth, for the greater honour of God, or, as St. Paul speaks, to the praise of his glory.
Blessed be the God, &c.— The sentence before us runs through twelve verses; a length of period remarkable even in St. Paul's writings, which are frequently difficult to be fully understood on that account. Under the words us and we, in this period, the Apostle doubtless includes the Ephesians, to whom he wrote,—the greatest part of whom were Gentile converts,—as sharing with him and the Jewish Christians in their evangelical privileges; and by thus beginning his Epistle with ascribingthanks to God for his mercies to them, he at once declares his firm persuasion of the calling of the Gentiles, and his hearty joy for it. We have before observed, that it is frequent with this Apostle, to make use of the same words in the same sentence in a different sense from that in which they occurred before. Thus, the word bless, in the beginning of this verse, signifies to praise; and in the next clause, to do good, or, "to confer a blessing upon:"—and for this reason,—that both of them are the effects of a benevolent mind. All spiritual blessings principally refer, not to extraordinary and miraculous gifts, but to the sanctifying and saving graces of the Spirit; such as justification by grace, the adoption of children, the illumination of the Spirit, and all the graces of the Christian life: these are blessings in the heavenlies, εν τοις επουρανιοις, or, in heavenly things, as it should be rendered, rather than places; as they are things which have a manifest relation to heaven, and a tendency to fit us for it.
Ephesians 1:4. In him— That is, in Christ. See the preceding verse, which, together with this, makes up the following sense: "As it was in consideration of Christ alone that God heretofore, before the foundation of the world, designed us Gentiles to be his people; so now that the Messiah is come, all the blessings and benefits which we are to receive in his heavenly kingdom, are laid up in him, and to be had only by our faith and dependance on him, without any respect to the law of Moses." The Apostle cannot be understood to intimate here, that every one of the persons who belonged to the Church of the Ephesians, or elsewhere to other Christian societies, in the bonds of external communion, was, by a particular decree of God, personally chosen to eternal life: for he could have no evidence that this was the case with regard to each, without such a revelation as none, we believe, ever pretended to, and as would very ill agree with other passages relating to the apostacy of some, who once made a very forward profession; and with the many exhortations and cautions which every where occur in his writings. We conclude, therefore, that he speaks of whole societies in general, as consisting of saints and believers, because this was the predominant character. The word rendered foundation is spoken of the foundation of a building, and is here applied to the creation of the world. The Jews date their election from Abraham; but, in the divine dispensations, Christ was prior to Abraham; and it is declared in other places of the New Testament, as well as this, that, even before the creation of Adam, the divine mercy had provideda remedy for his fall. In love means, particularly here, "to all the saints," as appears from Ephesians 1:15.—comp. also Colossians 1:4. Love is very often insisted on in this Epistle; the reason of which is, perhaps, to intimate, that now, when the partition wall was broken down, (see ch. Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:22,) it was of the highest importance to cultivate mutual affection, without any regard to the Jewish or Gentile character.
Ephesians 1:5. Having predestinated us— It was not by the observances of the law, but by faith alone in Jesus Christ, that God pre-determined to take the Gentiles into the state of sonship, or adoption. This was another particular for which St. Paul blesses God, in the name of the Gentiles; the consideration whereof was fit to raise the thoughts of the Ephesians above the Mosaic law, and keep them in a firm adherence to the liberty of the gospel. According to the good pleasure of his will, is spoken here in the same sense with what is said Romans 9:18; Romans 9:23-24. God, under the law, took the nation of Israel to be his people, without any merit in them; and so it is of his mere good pleasure that he even then purposed to enlarge his kingdom under the gospel, by admitting all, of every nation, to come in and submit themselves, not to the law of Moses, but to the rule and dominion of his Son, Jesus Christ; and this, as it is said in the next words, For the praise of the glory of his grace.
Ephesians 1:6. Wherein he hath made us accepted— Nothing can be imagined of greater force to raise the minds of the Ephesians above the Jewish ritual, and to keep them steady in the freedom of the gospel, than what St. Paul says here; namely, that God, before the foundation of the world, freely determined within himself to admit the Gentiles into his gospel kingdom, for the manifestation of his free grace to all the world; and this only for the sake of his beloved Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, it was to mistake or pervert the end of the gospel, and to debase this glorious dispensation, to make it subservient to the Jewish ritual, or to suppose that the law of Moses was to support, or be supported, by the kingdom of the Messiah; which was to be of larger extent, and settled upon another foundation, whereof the Mosaical institution was but a narrow, faint, and typical representation.
Ephesians 1:8. In all wisdom and prudence,— Having, with infinite wisdom, contrived a wayto glorify all his attributes in the salvation of men,—even those who seemed to have themost different claims; dispensing mercy in a way of judgment, and awakening a humbleawe and reverence in the soul by the very method which is used for granting pardon and peace. See Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:2-3.
Ephesians 1:9. The mystery of his will,— St. Paul's so often terming God's purpose of calling the Gentiles a mystery, and so emphatically declaring it to be concealed from ages, and particularly revealed to himself, (as we find in this Epistle, where it is so called five times, and four times in that to the Colossians) cannot be by chance, or without some particular reason. The question was, "Whether the converted Gentiles should hearken to the Jews,—who would persuade them that it was necessary for them to submit to circumcision and the law,—or to St. Paul, who had taught them otherwise?" Now there can be nothing of more force to destroy the authority of the Jews, in this case, than the shewing thatthey knew nothing of the matter;—that it was a perfect mystery to them, concealed from their knowledge, and made manifest in God's good time, at the coming of the Messiah, and particularly discovered to St. Paul by immediate revelation; to be communicated by him to the Gentiles, who therefore had a reason to continue steadfast to this truth, and not to be led away from the gospel which he had taught them. See ch. Ephesians 3:9.
Ephesians 1:10. He might gather together— The original, 'Ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι, rendered gathered together, properly signifies, to recapitulate, recollect, or put together the heads of a discourse, and to unite again under one head. Both angels and men were at first in harmonious subjection to the Son of God, their common creator; but man having broken himselfoff from this society, the Son of God and Son of Man, by his humiliation and suffering in the humanity, recovers and re-unites all who faithfully adhere to him, and, in his human nature, presides over the kingdom to which, in the world of glory, they and his angels belong. No view can be nobler than that which this interpretation presents. See ch. Ephesians 3:10. Colossians 1:16-20. Philippians 2:0.
Ephesians 1:11. We have obtained an inheritance,— Mr. Locke would render u949?κληρωθημεν are become his inheritance; alluding to Deu 32:9 and interprets it as referring to the admission of the Gentiles into the church, which is God's heritage. But as we, in this and the next verse, seems opposed to you in the 13th, it must probably signify the Jews who first trusted in Christ, or the body of the Christian church, who were incorporated long before the Ephesians were brought into it. The last clause of this verse certainly expresses God's taking such methods to answer his purpose, as he knows will in fact be successful; but it does not prove any thing like an overbearing impulse on men's minds, to determine them in such a manner as to destroy the natural freedom of their volitions, and so to prevent their being justly accountable to God for such actions.
Ephesians 1:13. Ye were sealed— In Rev 7:3 mention is made of God sealing the foreheads of his servants, that they might be known to be his; alluding to the custom of marking the foreheads of slaves, that the public might know that they were the private property of the purchasers. So St. Paul here says, that God sealed with his Spirit those who believed in him, to mark them for his own. See 2 Timothy 2:19.
Ephesians 1:14. Which is the earnest, &c.— "In which Holy Spirit you have a certain pledge and token of your being by adoption entitled to the future inheritance; to encourage and animate you under all the difficulties of your way, till the complete redemption of his faithful saints, whom he hath so dearly purchased for his possession. To whom he hath promised everlasting happiness; and he will certainly bestow it upon them inthe day of his final appearance, which will at length open with a lustre that shall fully repay so long an expectation, and abundantly conduce to the praise of his glory." What we render till the redemption of the purchased possession, Dr. Whitby would render, till the redemption of life (see Romans 8:23.); and Beza, nearly to the same sense, till the redemption of vindication; that is, "till the faithful are set entirely at liberty, andreceive complete deliverance and salvation." Some read it, until [the time of] the salutary redemption.
Ephesians 1:15.— Having, in the foregoing verses, thanked God for the great favours and mercies which, from the beginning, he had purposed for the Gentiles under the Messiah, in such a description of that design of the Almighty as was fit to raise their thoughts above the law; having taken notice of their standing firm in the faith which he had taught them, and thanked God for it;—the Apostle here goes on to intreat of God that he would enlighten the minds of the Ephesian converts, to see fully the great things which were actually done for them, and the glorious state they were in under the gospel; of which he gives us such a draught from this verse to ch. Eph 2:10 as in every part of it shews, that, in the kingdom of Christ, they are set far above the Mosaical rites, and enjoy the spiritual and incomprehensible benefits of it, not by the tenour of a few outward ceremonies, but by their faith alone in Jesus Christ, to whom they are united, and of whom they are members; who is exalted to the height of all dignity, dominion, and power, in his glorified humanity, and in his mediatorial office.
After I heard of your faith— Some have hence argued, that this Epistle, if directed to the Ephesians, must have been written before St. Paul's long abode at Ephesus; since he would not have spoken of their faith as only known by report, if he had, by two years and a half, been conversant with them, and seen the effects of it. To this it has been answered by some, that the word ακουω signifies, not only to hear, but to understand, by whatever means the knowledge be attained. And others have said, that this Epistle was intended, not only for the church of Ephesus, but for other Asian churches in the neighbourhood. But, perhaps, the easiest and most solid answer is, that, as it was now five or six years since St. Paul quitted Ephesus, he might judge it proper thus to express his complacency on hearing that they continued, in the midst of so many circumstances of temptation, to behave in a manner so worthy what he had personally observed among them. See Colossians 1:4. Php 3:21. 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 3:6. Instead of faith, some read faithfulness.
Ephesians 1:17. The Father of glory,— A Hebrew expression, which cannot well be changed, since it signifies his being glorious in himself,—the fountain whence all glory is derived—and to whom all glory is to be given. In all which senses it may be taken here, where there is nothing that appropriates it in particular to any one of them. Wisdom is evidently used in this verse for "a right conception and understanding of the gospel." Revelation is used by St. Paul, not only for immediate inspiration, but, as it is meant here, and in most other places, for such truths as could not have been found out by human reason, but had their first discovery from revelation; though men afterwards came to the knowledge of those truths by reading them in the sacred scripture, where they are set down for their information.
Ephesians 1:18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;— And would give you to have the eyes of your understanding enlightened: Doddridge, more agreeable to the original.
Ephesians 1:19. To us-ward— Us here, you, ch. Eph 2:1 and us ch. Eph 2:5 plainly signify the same; namely, those who, being spiritually dead, partook of the energy of that great power which raised Christ Jesus: and all those glorious things which in Ephesians 1:18-23, he intimates to them, by praying that they may see them, he here, in this verse, tells us, are bestowed on the saints as believers, and not as observers of Mosaical rites. The admirable beauty of this passage, andthe strong emphasis and force of the expression in the original, can scarcely be paralleled in any author, and are superior to what our language can reach.
Ephesians 1:20. From the dead, and set him, &c.— From the dead: and he set him, &c. Instead of heavenly places, both here and Eph 1:3 the margin of our bible reads things, which, perhaps, will be thought better, (as we have there remarked above,) if we compare the 22nd verse. He set him at his right hand,— that is, transferred on him his power as Mediatorial king;— εν επουρανιοις, that is, in his heavenly kingdom.—"He set him at the head of his heavenly kingdom." See Ephesians 1:22. This kingdom is called in the gospel indifferently the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven. God had before a kingdom and people in this world; namely, that kingdom which he erected to himself, of the Jews, selected and brought back to himself out of the apostatized mass of revolted and rebellious mankind. With this his peoplehe particularly dwelt; among them he had his habitation, and ruled as their king in a peculiar kingdom: and therefore we see, that our Saviour calls the Jews the children of the kingdom, Matthew 8:12. But that kingdom, though God's, was not yet the kingdom of heaven; that came with Christ. See Matthew 3:2; Matthew 10:7. The former was but επιγειος, of the earth, compared to this επουρανιος, heavenly kingdom, which was to be erected under the Lord Jesus Christ. In short, the whole drift of this and the two following chapters is, to declare the union of Jews and Gentiles into one body, under Christ, the head of the heavenly kingdom.
Ephesians 1:21. All principality, &c.— These abstract names are frequently used in the New Testament, according to the stile of theeastern languages, for "those vested with power and dominion, &c. and that not only here on earth among men, but in heaven, among superior beings;" and so are often taken to express ranks and degrees of angels. Though they are generally agreed to do so here, yet there is no reason to exclude earthly potentates out of this text, when πασης, all, necessarily includes them; for, that men in authority are one sort of principalities and powers, in a scripture sense, our Saviour's own words shew, Luke 12:11. Besides, the Apostle's chief aim here being to satisfy the Ephesians that they were not to be subjected to the law of Moses, and the government of those who ruled by it, but were called to be of the kingdom of the Messiah; it is not to be supposed that here, where he speaks of Christ's exaltation to a power and dominion paramount to all other, he should not have an eye to that earthly and inferior government of the Jews, to which it was beneath the subjects of so glorious a kingdom as that of Christ to submit themselves: and this is further inforced by the next verse.
Ephesians 1:23. Fulness— Fulness is here taken in a passive sense, for "a thing to be filled or completed;" as appears by the following words,—of him that filleth all in all. That is, "It is Christ the head, who perfecteth the church, by supplying and furnishing all things to all the faithful members, to make them what they are and ought to be in that body." See ch. Ephesians 5:18. Colossians 2:10; Colossians 3:10-11. Bishop Sherlocke observes, upon this passage from Ephesians 1:17. "What can be added to this description of power and authority?" And yet the Apostle, you observe, founds all this upon Christ's resurrection, and his exaltation consequent to it. Then were all things put under his feet; then was he given to be head over the church, and set above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named. The scripture abounds in evidence of this kind; and I think there is nothingplainer in the gospel than that Christ Jesus is our Lord, because he hath redeemed us; that he is our King, being raised, by the Father, to all power and authority; and that he is our Mediator and
Intercessor, being set down on the right-hand of God in the heavenly places. But all this has reference only to his mediatorial reign, and not to his eternal Godhead, wherebyhe is "over all, GOD, blessed for ever. Amen." The Gnostics generally, if not universally, used the word πληρωμα, fulness, in their writings, to signify all the holy and happy spirits in the universe, as constituting, in this passive sense, the fulness of the Deity. And as these heretics abounded in Asia Minor, and their writings were voluminous and much read, they were enabled to fix that passive meaning to the word πληρωμα, when used in a religious sense. St. Paul therefore uses the word here according to the common acceptation in which it was taken among the people to whom he was writing; at the same time securing the fundamental doctrine of the supreme Godhead of Christ, by declaring that he filleth all in all.
Inferences.—Are we not, by divine grace and mercy, partakers of those privileges which St. Paul here celebrates with so much delight, and in the review of which, familiar as they were to his thoughts and discourses, he breaks forth, as it were, into a rapturous anthem, in the very beginning of this Epistle, as he likewise does in so many others? Ought not our hearts to be as warm in such devout acknowledgments? Are spiritual blessings in heavenly things, or places, in Christ Jesus, less valuable, now than they were seventeen or eighteen hundred years ago? Are not the necessities of our souls the same? Let us then join with the most grateful sentiments in the acclamation, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. Let his faithful saints give him all the glory, that they are predestinated, with proper regard to the nature of his intelligent and free creatures, and made accepted in the Beloved, that they may be to the praise of the glory of his grace.
Let these united displays of his wisdom and love affect our hearts; for he has, indeed, abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence. And let that holiness, which mingles its glories in the whole scheme, be also remembered. Let it never be forgotten, that we are predestinated to be holy and without blame before him in love, that we might attain to that blameless temper which love alone can inspire and support: and that without this holiness, whatever be the gracious intentions, or predestinations of God concerning us, we shall never see the Lord, if the holy God be true, or consistent with himself.
For this purpose—that we may be holy—the mystery of his will is made known to us, and that grand, impartial, and illustrious plan is displayed, which is so well worthy of all the perfections of God, even his design to gather together in one all things in Christ, to unite all good and happy spirits under him as the common Head, and to make him the bond of their eternal union to God and to each other. What are we sinful creatures, that we, if faithful to the grace of God, may be received into such an association? Let us never forget this truth upon earth, but always feel its vital influence, and we shall for ever commemorate it in heaven—that it is through his blood we have redemption. Then, his Spirit will be given us as the seal of the promises, and the earnest of our inheritance; and, by more abundant communications of his sanctifying influences, our souls will be raised to a blessed anticipation of those enjoyments which will endure for ever, and will be for ever new and delightful!
Let me also observe, that faith in Christ, and love to all the saints, is in this chapter put by the Apostle for the whole of a Christian temper. May they be more apparent and operative in all who call themselves by the Christian name—even a firm and active faith, a warm and unbounded love, which will forget every thing that would alienate our hearts from our brethren; and only remember, that they are saints, consecrated to God, and sanctified by him; that they are believers in Christ Jesus, and therefore one with him, who is our Head, and our All; whose love has given to us, and to them, whatever is lovely in either; who will glorify all his faithful saints, and make them so happy together, that the very thought of that happiness should cause our hearts to overflow with every benevolent affection, as well as with perpetual gratitude to our Divine Deliverer, who is the source of it.
Let us also learn, by the excellent and pathetic prayer of the Apostle, what are the most important petitions that we can offer for ourselves and our Christian friends. Surely this must be numbered among them, that the eyes of our understandings may be enlightened more and more, that so we may more clearly and affectionately know what is the great and glorious hope which our Christian calling sets before us. Alas! as yet we know but little of it—but little of that great and glorious inheritance, which God will divide among his faithful saints, and in the enjoyment of which he will for ever unite them all. But adored be his grace if we so know it as deliberately to make choice of it, as to give up every interest and hope inconsistent with it, and determinately to say, This is our rest, we have desired it. (Psalms 132:14.)
He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing, is God. (2 Corinthians 5:5.) It is, indeed, an exertion of a divine power; the same that quickened the dead body of our Redeemer, and exalted him to his mediatorial throne. Let our souls, like that of the Apostle, presently take the hint, and soar upwards, as with an eagle's, or rather an angel's wing—soar to those glorious abodes, where he sits at the right-hand of God, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named. There he reigns, not only as the sovereign Guardian of the universe, but in the more endearing character of the Head of the Church, bearing the same tender affection to it, exerting the same care over it, as the head over the members; calling the church, narrow as its boundaries seem, his fulness, though he filleth all in all.
"Blessed Lord! Fill our souls more and more with all the graces of thy Spirit, and extend the boundaries of the church all abroad! Unite us in these dearest bonds; and give us always to act worthy of that honour which thou conferrest upon us, when thou callest us thy body, thy flesh, and thy bones." Ephesians 5:30.
REFLECTIONS.—1st. This Epistle opens with the Apostle's usual address: Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, appointed to this high office and honour by the will of God immediately revealed from heaven, to the saints which are at Ephesus, by profession and practice separated from this present evil world, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost; And to the faithful in Christ Jesus, who by faith are united to him, and approve their fidelity before him: Grace be to you, and peace, in all their comprehensive import, from God our Father, the fountain of blessedness; and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the purchaser and bestower of every good and perfect gift. Note; (1.) All true Christians are saints upon earth. (2.) They who have obtained grace to be faithful, have need still to look to the same fountain whence they derive continual supplies, that their stability may be secured, and their peace be enlarged.
2nd, Deeply impressed with a sense of the inestimable blessings, of which, in Christ Jesus, they had been made partakers, the grateful Apostle breaks forth in praises and thanksgivings to the God of all grace.
1. In general: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the adored Redeemer, in whom he is now become our reconciled and covenant God, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things, or places, in Christ, blessings descending from above, and leading up our souls to high and heavenly things, till, if faithful to the grace of God, we reach the mansions of eternal blessedness. And for all these rich gifts which we now enjoy, and all the greater glory which we hope for, be everlasting praise, honour, and thanksgiving, ascribed to the everblessed Fountain of mercies. Note; (1.) We cannot bless God as he blesseth us: his blessings are real gifts conferred; ours are only the grateful acknowledgments that we owe for them. (2.) All the spiritual blessings which we enjoy are freely given to us in Christ Jesus.
2. In particular:
(1.) He blesses God for the reconciliation and acceptance obtained through Christ Jesus: Wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved, in his boundless grace he has taken us for his own, and, regarding us as we stand united with his dear Son, embraces us with the arms of his love, accepting both our persons and services for his sake.
(2.) He praises God for the great and inestimable blessings of redemption and remission of sins, through the adored Saviour: in whom we have redemption, a deliverance from evil, and a restoration to the capability of enjoying all blessedness, in virtue of the inestimable price which he has paid, through his most precious blood, shed on purpose to satisfy divine justice, and obtain our deliverance from the curse of a broken law; in virtue whereof we have the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; though it was due to our substitute, the pardon is absolutely free to us: and that such a Redeemer should be ever provided, was itself a matter of the most transcendant grace and favour; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence, manifesting the most astonishing depths of wisdom in the contrivance, and prudence in the execution of this wondrous scheme of salvation.
(3.) He blesses God for the knowledge which he had communicated to them of his will. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, which was hid from former ages, or but darkly made known, but now is revealed to us, both by an external revelation of it clearly in his word, and by the internal illumination of his Spirit, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself—a purpose of infinite love and advantage to all who will submit to be saved by grace—that in the dispensation of the fulness of times under the gospel, the last dispensation of grace which will be vouchsafed to the sinful sons of men, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, reducing things again to order from the confusion which sin had introduced, recovering all his faithful saints, whether Jews or Gentiles, from the miseries of their fallen state, and, under Christ as their living head, uniting them in one body; both which are in heaven and which are on earth, angels as well as saints being formed into one glorious company, even in him, who is their centre of union, and whom they acknowledge as their common Lord.
(4.) He blesses God for the glorious inheritance obtained in Christ for the faithful. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, holding a title to eternal life by faith in him; being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we, to whom the word was first preached, should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ, and embraced his gospel. (See the Annotations and also the Introduction to this chapter.) In whom ye Gentiles also trusted, and obtained, through faith in him, a title to a like inheritance with us, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and became thereby obedient to the faith, and partakers in common of all our blessings.
(5.) He blessed God for the seal and assurance which they had received of their interest in the promises. In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which, shining on his own work, conveyed the fullest evidence to your consciences of your particular interest in the salvation of the gospel, which is the earnest of our inheritance, a pledge and foretaste of the glory which shall be revealed in all the faithful saints of God—until the redemption of the purchased possession, when the righteous shall be brought to the perfection of happiness above, and the work be completed in the resurrection of a glorified body at the last day, unto the praise of his glory, when to eternity his great name shall be exalted by all his saints, who shall surround his throne with never-ending praises.
3rdly, The Apostle accompanies his grateful thanksgivings with his affectionate prayers. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, shewn by the most genuine proofs, cease not to give thanks for you at every approach to the throne of grace, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our covenant God in him, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, making a more clear and experimental discovery to you of the glorious truths of his word, and manifesting with greater energy his love to your souls; that you may know, choose, and delight in him as your God; the eyes of your understanding, which by nature were darkened, being now enlightened, that ye may know, (1.) What is the hope of his calling, beholding with the spiritual eye of faith, and, in a blessed measure, now enjoying the unutterably glorious privileges which it comprehends: And, (2.) What the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, at present in all the inestimably precious gifts and graces which he bestows, and hereafter in the complete and everlasting blessedness which he hath provided for all persevering believers: (3.) And what is the exceeding greatness of his mighty power to us-ward who believe, how surpassing marvellous, that we, who were dead in sins, should ever be quickened to the life of faith and grace, preserved amidst all the enemies, spiritual and temporal, without and within, which fight against us, and, if faithful unto death, our bodies at last raised from the dust in glory, according to the working of his mighty power, an act of omnipotence no less than that which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, leading captivity captive, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, triumphant over all his foes, and exalted to the throne of Majesty on high, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; whether angels of light, or demons of darkness, or earthly potentates and princes, by whatever name or title distinguished, all are made subject unto him; and hath put all things under his feet, as the exalted Mediator, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church; to govern, protect, and preserve his faithful people from all foes; while he, as their living head of vital influence, actuates, quickens, and strengthens every member of his church, which is his body mystical, and in that sense they are the fulness of him; though in himself Christ is infinitely perfect, and needeth us not; while we receive our all out of him that filleth all in all, supplying every want of his faithful saints, and bestowing on them the abundance of his grace, that they may grow up unto him in all things, and be conformed to him their head. Note; (1.) Prayer is the constant duty which we owe to each other. (2.) The prospect of the glorious inheritance before us should quicken our desires after it. (3.) Christ hath all power committed to him for the good of his saints; and they may be confident of his care and support in every time of need.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany