Observe here, 1. The penman of this epistle described by his name, Paul by his office, an apostle; by his commission to that office, the will of God; that is, by the command and appointment of God. It is matter of great consolation to the ministers of Christ, as well as great satisfaction to their people, that their calling is from God, and not from themselves; that they speak not in their own names but by commission received from Christ, whose ambassadors they are.
Observe, 2. The superscription of this epistle, the persons to whom it was directed and sent, To the saints at Ephesus; so they were all at Ephesus by visible profession, and many of them, no doubt, by real sanctification. All the members of the visible church are obliged to be saints, and the true and real Christian is a true and real saint.
He adds, And to the faithful in Christ Jesus; throughout all Asia. This pointed out their duty to them, to be not only holy in profession, but faithful in conversation; these two words, saints and faithful, conjoined, denote both their dignity and their duty; their dignity, in standing near to God, as his children; their duty, in being faithful to him as his servants.
Observe, lastly, He styles them saints and faithful in Christ Jesus; intimating, that all our grace and holiness must be holiness in Christ Jesus; that is acted and exercised by strength fetched from Christ Jesus, and that all our holiness must be accepted in Christ Jesus.
These words may be considered two ways, 1. As a religious salutation, taken from the manner of the Jews, who expressed their desires for one another's well-doing, by wishing peace, that is, all kind of happiness and prosperity to each other; Christianity doth neither forbid or abolish, but doth spiritualize and improve, civility, humanity, and common courtesy.
The words may be considered as an apostolical benediction, in imitation of the priest's blessing, Numbers 6:1. The apostles were the patriarchs or spiritual fathers of the church of the New Testament, as the sons of Jacob were of the Old; accordingly they bless their children, wishing grace from God the Father, or grace from God as a Father; thereby denoting, that God bestows not his grace as a Creator, but as a Father in Christ, in a discriminating way and peculiar manner. And peace from our Lord Jesus Christ; he being the purchaser of our peace, he upon whom the chastisement of our peace was laid, and he that made peace for us by the blood of his cross; and thereupon God of his free grace accepts us, justifies us, and is at peace with us.
Learn, That such as have received most grace from God, stand in farther need of supplies of grace from him; they are thankful for peace, but they cannot content themselves with peace without grace; they desire both to have the heart and love of God set upon them, as well as pacified towards them; they desire to be pardoned, but above all seek to be beloved of the Father.
Observe here, 1. The work which the heart of the apostle was set upon, and that is, the work of blessing God: we bless God one way, he blesses us another; he blesses us imperatoriously, by commanding his blessings upon us; we bless him optatively, when with thankful hearts we praise him, when we wish well to him, and speak well of him.
Lord, what an infinite favour and privilege is this vouchsafed to us, not only to pray to God and receive blessings from him, but to admit us to bless him, and to account himself honoured by us when we acknowledge him the fountain of all blessings and blessedness to us his creatures!
Observe, 2. The title under which our apostle blessed him, namely, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He doth not say now under the gospel, as of old under the law, Blessed be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; or, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; but, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Where note, 1. He is a God to Christ, in relation to his being man: Christ being foreordained before the foundation of the world,to the work and office of a Mediator, 1 Peter 1:20 and the Father making a covenant or federal transaction with him from all eternity as Mediator.
Note, 2. He is a Father to Christ, and that both as God and man: a father to him as God, by eternal and ineffable generation, the one being Deus gignens, and the other Deus genitus: thus he was the only begotten Son of the Father: and Father to him as man, by virtue of the personal union of the two natures in Christ, Therefore that holy thing shall be called the Son of God Luke 1:32.
Observe, 3. The reason why under these relations he so affectionately blesses God, namely, for bestowing blessings, spiritual blessings, all spiritual blessings; and this is in or concerning heavenly things, which tend to fit us for heaven and eternal glory.
And lastly, all these blessings are conferred upon us in Christ, he, by his merit, hath purchased them; he, as our head and advocate,in our name has received them; by virtue of our union with whom we have a right upon them, and shall ere long in heaven be fully and finally possessed of them.
Behold here the transcendent bounty and liberality of our heavenly Father. He has more than one blessing for his children, he has all spiritual and heavenly blessings for them, grace on earth, and glory in heaven; grace to enable them to glorify him upon earth, and glory as the reward of grace with himself in heaven.
Rejoice, O Christian, in thy lot and portion; God himself hath but all things, and so hast thou. Has he all spiritual blessings in heaven in full possession? thou hast them also in right and title at present, and ere long shalt enjoy them in full fruitation. Eternally blessed then be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, or in heavenly things, in Christ.
Our apostle having in the former verse offered up a very solemn thanksgiving to God, for blessing the Ephesians with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ, he comes in this verse to discover and declare the fountain from whence all these spiritual blessings did proceed and flow, namely, from God's gracious purpose in our election before all time; He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, &c.
Where note, 1. The favour vouchsafed, election; and the fruit and product of that favour, holiness of life and conversation.
Note, 1. The favour and privilege vouchsafed by God, He hath chosen. This denotes the freeness of the favour: he chose when he might have refused. His book of life is a book of love; the cause of our love is in the object; the reason of God's love is in himself.
Note, 2. The subject of this favour, He hath chosen us, us Gentiles. The Jews much gloried in their being a chosen generation, a peculiar people; we Gentiles are a chosen generation also; they were beloved for their father's sake, Abraham's, we for Christ's sake.
Note, 3. The antiquity of this favour: Before the foundation of the world: that is, from all eternity. The apostle, to take the Jews off from boasting, as they did, that the world was made for their sake, and that the Messiah from the beginning of the world did enter into a covenant with God to redeem them especially, declares, that the despised Gentiles were elected and chosen by God to be an holy people to himself; and all this, in the purpose of God, before the foundations of the world were laid.
Note, 4. God is said to have chosen us in Christ, as our head. Consider Christ as God, so we are chosen by him. I know whom I have chosen, says Christ. Consider him as a Mediator; so we are chosen in him, not for him: because, not Christ's undertaking for us, but the Father's good pleasure towards us, was the spring and fontal cause of our election. The truth is, God was so far from choosing the Gentiles out of faith foreseen, that he did not choose them for the sake and obedience of Christ foreseen; God did not love us from eternity because Christ was to die for us in time, but because he loved us with an everlasting love; therefore in the fulness of time, Christ was sent to die for us: so that the death of Christ was the fruit and effect, but not the cause of our election. No other reason, says bishop Fell upon the place, can be assigned of this privilege, but the good pleasure of God; and if Christ's sufferings were not the cause of our election, much less our own deserving, as he adds there; Almighty God not choosing us because worthy, but to make us worthy by choosing us.
Note, 5. The effect and fruit, the benefit and end, of this free and ancient favour: That we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Holiness is here declared not to be the cause, but the effect of our election: God chose the Gentiles from eternity to be his people, not because they were holy, they were far enough from that, being afar off from God, but designing that they thus graciously chosen should be holy; initially, progressively, and perseveringly holy in this life, and perfectly holy in the next; yet arriving at such a perfection here in holiness as to denominate us blameless in the account of God, by virtue of our faith in Christ, and love to one another.
From the whole learn, 1. That God's bestowing all spiritual blessings upon us in time, is the effect and fruit of his electing love from all eternity; He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, according as he hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
Learn, 2. That God hath chosen none to happiness and glory hereafter, but only such as are holy in conversation here, holy in the habitual frame and disposition of their hearts, and in the general course and tenor of their lives and actions.
Learn, 3. That such as are holy before God, will endeavour to walk unblamably in the sight of man, in the exercise of love, and in the practice of all the duties of the second table, which are at once evidences of our sincerity, and an ornament to our profession; That we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love.
That is, "having predestinated us Gentiles, who in the esteem of the Jews were accounted dogs, to be his adopted sons and daughters, in and by Jesus Christ, in whom he hath made us accepted, to the abundant praise and glory of his free grace and mercy."
Observe here, 1. That none are the children of God by nature: none are born sons, but made sons; not of their own, but God's making; and in order to this glorious privilege, we were predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.
Observe, 2. The attribute mentioned here by the apostle, which moved God to predestinate us to the adoption of children: it was the glory of his grace, he mentions not the glory of his holiness, the glory of his justice, or the glory of his power, because the glory of his power is manifested in making of the world, the glory of his holiness in making of his law, the glory of his justice in turning the transgressors of that law into hell; but his grace he shows no where so much as in the predestination ofhis children, and in what he hath predestinated them unto; he showeth indeed all his attributes herein, but grace over and above all the rest.
Observe 3. The effect and fruit of this privilege, namely, of our being predestinated to the adoption of children, and that is, our being made accepted in Christ the Beloved; the word is properly rendered, He hath made us dear, precious, and delightful, to himself; or in one word, He hath ingratiated us.
Here note, That as Jesus Christ is in an eminent manner beloved of God and accepted with him, so in like manner all God's adopted children do, and shall, find favour with God, and acceptance through Christ: He hath made us freely accepted in the Beloved.
Our apostle having, in the foregoing verses, enumerated the great and glorious privileges which the children of God were made partakers of before all time, comes next to discover what they are admitted to the participation of in time: and here in this verse he mentions two of them, namely, redemption and remission of sin. In whom we have redemption through his blood, &c.
Here note, The privilege itself, redemption; the Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the price of his redemption paid down, his blood: one fruit of this redemption instanced in for all the rest, the forgiveness of sin: and, lastly, the spring or source of all this, the riches of his grace.
Learn, 1. The deplorable state into which the whole race of mankind was brought into by sin; namely, an estate of slavery and bondage, and spiritual captivity unto sin. Redemption supposses this; slaves and captives need a redeemer, none else; we are all by nature under slavery to sin, to Satan, and the curse of the law, and the wrath of God.
Learn 2. That there was no delivery to be had from this slavery but by a price paid down to the justice of God; redemption is a delivery by ransom and price.
Learn 3. That no other price did or could redeem us from our miserable captivity, but the blood of Christ: We have redemption through his blood.
Learn 4. That all belivers, and only they, have remission of their sins, through the redemption purchased for them by the blood of Christ.
Learn 5. That God's free grace, and Christ's full satisfaction, do stand well together in the work of redemption and remission of sin. True, God had a satisfaction from the hand of our surety Christ Jesus; but was it not free grace and rich mercy in God, to accept of a surety and a substitution, when the rigour of the law required none, and would admit of none, but demanded that the soul which sinned should die? Was it not free mercy, not only to accept a surety, but to provide a surety for us as God did, and this surety his own Son? And to deliver up this Son to a painful, shameful, and accursed death, that we might have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace?
That is, in which dispensation of his, namely, our redemption from sin and wrath by the blood of his Son, God the Father hath discovered abundant wisdom, wonderful wisdom, riches of divine wisdom, to the children of men.
Taking the words in this sense, the observation is, that God's sending his Son into the world to suffer in our stead, and to satisify for our sin, was not only an act of special grace and peculiar favour, but also an evidence and demonstration of wonderful wisdom in God: He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom.
O what wonderful wisdom appeared in the contrivance of the work of redemption, and in the accompolishment of it! What wisdom, in appointing such a Mediator as was fit to reconcile God to man, and man to God! What wisdom, in laying the platform and design of the gospel in such a way and manner, as at once to advance the honour, and secure the glory of God, and to promote the holiness and comfort of man!
Observe next, The description which St. Paul gives us of the gospel, and the preaching of it; it is the mystery of God's will revealed and made known to a lost world.
Learn, That the gospel's method for recovering and saving lost sinners by a Redeemer, was a mystery, a hidden mystery: it was hid where all the world could never have found it, where angels and men could never discover it; it was hid in God, in his breast and bosom, in his heart and thoughts; it was hid from angels; nay, the churches knew it before the angels; yea, the angels learnt it from the churches, Ephesians 3:10.
Unto principalities and powers is known by the church the manifold wisdom of God: and as it was hid from angels, so from the wise men of the world,1 Corinthians 2:8. "We preach the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which none of the princes of this world knew;" nay, the gospel was hid from all the saints of the Old Testament, comparatively, not absolutely, with respect to that clear revelation which we have of the gospel now, it may be said to be hidden from them then.
O, what obligation then do we lie under, who live under the dispensation of the gospel, to acknowledge what an infinite favour it is from God clearly to know the mystery of his will, concerning the redemption and salvation of poor lost sinners by a Mediator! God has now revealed it, and he desires all may know and receive the revelation of it, namely, the hidden mystery of his will.
Observe, lastly, What was the impelling and moving cause of God's making known the mystery of his will by the gospel, and his enlightening the understandings of men savingly to apprehend it, proceeds entirely from the purpose and pleasure of his own good will: Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself.
These words discover to us the end and design of God in making known the mystery of his will, that is, in revealing the gospel: it was to gather into one universal church both angels and men, Jews and Gentiles, under Christ their head, and by virtue of that union to become one with the Father, as he and Christ are one.
Here note, 1. That Christ is the Head both of angels and men; an head of confirmation to the angels, of redemption to fallen man: both angels and saints in heaven and on earth make up one family, of which Christ is the head; the angels are a part of the worshippers of Christ as well as we, they are apart of his family and household; the angels fill our churches as well as men, and are present in our congregations and assemblies,1 Corinthians 11:10.
Our apostle having hitherto spoken of the glorious privileges of the gospel in general, he comes now to make application of this his doctrine, first to the Jews, and next to the Gentiles in particular.
As to the Jews, who were first called by Christ and his apostles, and who were the first that trusted or hoped in Christ for salvation, before there was any considerable number of converts among the Gentiles, he declares, that these Jewish believers, whereof himself was one, had in and through Christ, obtained a right to be God's portion and a peculiar people: but together with their being God's portion, they should have a right to an inheritance. In whom we have obtained an inheritance; namely, an inheritance in the heavenly Canaan, the inheritance of the saints in light; and to this inheritance, says he, you have been appointed, God having fore-or-dained that this inheritance should be the portion of all believers, and the consequent of faith in Christ, by virtue of which we become the sons of God, and all this to the praise of his own glory; that is, to the intent that his glorious attributes of wisdom, goodness, and mercy, might be acknowledged and highly praised.
Learn hence, 1. That to be called to faith, and brought to believe in Christ, before others, is a favour and special prerogative which some persons have above others. We who first believed in Christ. It is an high honour above all others, to be in Christ before others, Who were in Christ before me Romans 16:7.
Learn, 2. That as all believers are God's portion, and the lot of his inheritance, so they do obtain from him right and title to a lot and share in an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens for them: We have obtained an inheritance.
Learn, 3. That Jesus Christ the Mediator, is that person in, by, and through whom, believers are instituted to this inheritance: In whom, &c. Christ hath purchased this inheritance for them; he hath promised it to them; he has already taken, and still keeps possession of it for them; and he will put them into the full and final possession of it at the great day.
Learn, 4. That the great end and design of God, in all the distinguishing favours and benefits which by Jesus Christ we obtain from him, is this,That we should be to the praise of his glory.
The words may be understood,
1. Passively; the praise of his glory was to be manifested in them.
2. Actively; that the high praises of God were to be set forth by them.
Here the apostle recounts the favours and privileges which the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, upon their believing in Christ were admitted to the participation of; he assures them, that in and through Christ they had obtained a right to this heavenly inheritance also, as well as the Jews, having been brought to trust and believe in him, by hearing the word of truth, the doctrine of the gospel, preached to them.
And next, that they were sealed for the children of God, by the sanctifying Spirit promised to the sons of God, which produced a real renovating change in their hearts and lives, and so was a pledge and earnest of, as well as made them meet and fit for, the heavenly inheritance; the full enjoyment of which is not to be expected till the last day, when (and not before) all believers shall receive complete redemption, and their bodies being raised, shall be reunited to their souls, and both rendered perfectly and everlastingly happy. The end of God, in all this dispensation of grace and mercy to the Gentiles, being the same with that before mentioned to the Jews; namely, the praise of his own glorious grace.
Here observe, 1. That both the Gentiles and Jews are saved by the same faith and trust in Christ; In whom ye also trusted; as they have the same common inheritance, so have they the same common affiance and faith in Christ.
Observe 2. That the faith of the Gentiles came by hearing of the word: In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word, &c. that is, presently after they heard they believed and obeyed;Ye obeyed from the very first day that we preached the gospel. Colossians 1:6
What a shame and reproach is this to those amongst us, who have heard the gospel preached all their days, yet never did believe or obey the gospel!
Observe, 3. A double encomium which the apostle gives the gospel by which these Gentile Ephesians were converted; he calls it,
l. The word of truth; that is, a word of the most eminent and excellent truth. There is no truth that ever God swore to but the truth of the gospel. The law is truth as well as the gospel, but the law was made without an oath; had it been made with an oath, it had never been recalled; the gospel is sealed with an oath, and therefore shall never be reversed.
2. He calls it the gospel of salvation, and the gospel of their (the Ephesians') salvation. It is called a gospel of salvation, because the matter of it is salvation, because the offer of it is salvation, and it declares the only way and means by which lost sinners may obtain salvation. And the gospel of their salvation, because God had by his Holy Spirit made the preaching of this gospel effectual for their conversion and salvation.
Observe, 4. The privilege which the Ephesian Gentiles obtained, after they had by faith consented to this gospel of salvation; and that was their sealing: After ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.
Where note, That the privilege of sealing always follows the duty of believing, never goes before it. Sealing doth imply that precious and excellent esteem which they have with God. Nothing but what is precious is sealed by us. Who seals up dung and pebbles in a bag? Believers are God's jewels, his treasure, therefore sealed. Sealing also is for safety and security, for discrimination, and for confirmation. The Holy Spirit, by sanctifying of us, doth discriminate and distinguish us from the rest of the world, doth secure and preserve us from the fatal danger of a ruinous apostasy, and doth also confirm our hopes of the glorious inheritance.
Observe, 5. That the Holy Spirit is given to believers in the nature of an earnest; sanctifying grace, wrought in the heart here, is a sure earnest of glory hereafter; which is the earnest of our inheritance. An earnest binds the bargain, and is a part of the bargain, if it be but a shilling given as an earnest, it secures a contract for a thousand pounds. Believers are to consider and look upon grace, not barely as grace but as an earnest of glory.
O, be thankful to God for his sanctifying Spirit, not only as subduing thy corruptions, but as a pledge and earnest of a glorious inheritance. It is a great comfort to find grace in the soul, as sanctifying, as quickening, and renewing; but a greater matter of rejoicing to find it also there as witnessing, as sealing and confirming, as a part of our inheritance in glory, and as a pledge and earnest of the whole.
Observe, 6. That the Holy Spirit of God is God. To sanctify, to seal, to confirm our hearts, are divine operations: he that doth these, must be a divine Person. True; how the Spirit of God is God, and how he proceedeth from the Father and Son, cannot be comprehended by our reason and shallow understandings. No wonder that the doctrine of the Trinity is inexplicible, seeing the nature of God is incomprehensible; our faith, then, must assent to what our reason cannot comprehend, otherwise we can never be Christians.
Observe lastly, That heaven is here called a possession, and a purchased possession, that is, by the blood of Christ. A king's ransom we account a vast sum; O, what will our ransom by the blood of the Son of God come to! Grace is purchased, and glory is purchased, both by the blood of Christ. Lord! what will that glory come to! In eternity we shall admire it, but never fully comprehend it.
Observe here, 1. The special duties which St. Paul performed on the behalf of these Ephesians: he gave thanks for them, he prayed for them, and both without ceasing. I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.
Where note, How enlarged St. Paul's heart was in thankfulness to God for the salvation of others, as well as unwearied in his endeavours in order to their salvation. This will be one great exercise of our grace in heaven; namely, thankfulness to God for the salvation of others, as well as our own; and, verily, it ought to be a mighty argument to move the heart of any one to work out his own salvation, when he sees another, be it his minister, his parent, his master, or his neighbour, so solicitous for it, and taking such care of it.
Note farther, That the duties of prayer and praise, of supplication and thanksgiving, ought to accompany one another: We are never to pray for fresh mercies, either for ourselves or others, without giving thanks to God for former mercies. Besides, there is no such effectual way of begging, as thanksgiving; he that is spiritually thankful for what he has received, engages God to confer upon him the mercies which he wanteth.
Add to this, that holy thankfulness is an evidence of true grace in us. Need and want will make us beggars, but grace only thanksgivers.
Observe, 2. The occasion of St. Paul's prayers and praises on the Ephesians' behalf; namely, his having heard,
1. of their faith in Christ; 2. of their love to all saints.
Where note, How he joins faith and love together, as the two most eminent graces, and as the two great evangelical commandments, faith in Christ, and love to saints.
But how comes he not to make mention of their love to God?
Ans. Because love to God is supposed and necessarily included in our love to saints as saints, for he that loves them that are begotten, much more loves him that begetteth; he that loves the child for the father's sake, loves the father much more for his own sake.
Note farther, it is love to saints, as saints, and to all saints without exception, that is the evidence of true faith; poor saints as well as rich, weak saints as well as gifted. There are froward and fretful saints, passionate and peevish Christians, who have many infirmities, great infirmities cleaving to them though disallowed by them; yet these professing Christians are loved and to be loved by us, even as a brother loveth all his brothers, for his father's sake that begat them all, though one be little, another lame, a third crooked, a fourth sickly.
Lord! how far are the professors of this day from the practice of this duty! How doth a little difference in judgment occasion a great deal of judging and rash censuring one another: Christ hath received us; why should we reject one another? One heaven will hold us all hereafter; why should not one communion hold us here? Verily, if children quarrel and fall out with one another at a full table, there is an enemy at their back that will quickly take away the voider: if our hearts be not turned suddenly to one another, Almighty God will certainly come and smite the earth with a curse.
These words give us a short, but very comprehensive, account of that affectionate prayer which St. Paul put up to God on the behalf of these Ephesians, newly converted to Christianity; in which observe,
1. The person whom he prays unto, God, under a very endearing title, for the strengthening of his faith; he styles him, not as the Old-Testament saints, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but in the language of the New Testament, The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he is Man and Mediator, commissioned of him, and sent by him; and the Father of Glory, as being in himself infinitely glorious; to whom all glory is and ought to be ascribed, and from whom alone it is communicated.
Learn hence, That as all our prayers and requests are and ought to be directed unto God only, so in order to our having access to God with assurance in prayer, it is our duty to apply to him as a Father, as a Father in Christ, as a Father in Christ to us, and under this notion and apprehension to strengthen our faith for the obtaining of what we ask in prayer; May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give unto you, &c.
Observe, 2. The great and comprehensive blessing prayed for; namely, divine illumination and spiritual knowledge; that is, a farther increase of that wisdom and saving knowledge of divine mysteries, whereof the Spirit of God is the author.
Learn hence, That as spiritual wisdom, or the saving knowledge of divine mysteries, is necessary to a Christian; so those who have a good measure of this grace already received, ought not to sit down satisfied with it, but aspire after farther measures and degrees of it; spiritual knowledge is as necessary for increasing grace, as it is for working grace in the soul.
Observe, 3. The title here given to the Holy Spirit of God; he is styled the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; he being the author of all that knowledge in the mysteries of religion which we attain unto, and it being his proper work and office to reveal unto us the will of God for our salvation.
Learn hence, 1. That believers themselves, who are divinely enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, have yet need of farther measures, and fuller degrees, of spiritual wisdom.
Learn 2.That the way to obtain this fuller measure of divine wisdom and spiritual illumination, is to be earnest with God in prayer for his Holy Spirit. So the apostle here.
Our apostle proceeds in this verse, and to the end of the chapter, in a very affectionate and fervent prayer, on the behalf of the Ephesians; namely, that the blessed Spirit of God, the author of all divine illumination, would farther open the eyes of their understanding, formerly shut up in heathenish blindness and darkness, that so they might know,
1. What is the hope of his calling; that is, what high and glorious hopes he had called them unto: for hope here is taken for the object of hope, or the great and good things hoped for: and it is said to be the hope of their calling, because, at their conversion from heathenism to Christianity, they were entitled to, and called to the expection of, these great and good things, which were the object of hope.
Where note, The Ephesians' deplorable state before conversion, they were without hope; and the happy exchange of their condition by embracing Christianity, they were begotten to a lively hope of glorious things, which before they were wholly ignorant of, and strangers to. As a sinner's misery lies not in what feels, but what he fears; so a Christian's happiness consists not in what he has in hand, but what he has in hope: May you know what is the hope of his calling.
The second blessing which he prays for on their behalf, is, that they may know what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints; that is, say some, What an exceeding glorious thing it is to be a Christian! What an exceeding glory redounds to God, by his people, which are his inheritance! say others. But most understand the words as a description of heaven, which is here called an inheritance, a rich inheritance, a glorious inheritance, in or among the saints; that is the saints in heaven, who hold that in possession which the saints on earth have in hope and expectation.
Learn hence, That heaven is the saints' inheritance. An inheritance is an estate that belongs to children, to all such, and none but such. It is an undeserved possession, and it is a sure and certain possession.
Here note, That Almighty God is said in scripture to make heaven as sure to his saints, by all sorts of ways, as a man can make an inheritance sure to his child. It is theirs by promise, it is theirs by purchase, it is theirs by gift, it is theirs by bequest; it is given by will to them, I appoint by will unto you a kingdom. Luke 22:29
Can any thing be surer, or more ways made secure to any person, than this inheritance of heaven is to the holy servants of God? But, farther, the apostle calls it the riches of the glory of his inheritance; that is, a very rich and exceedingly glorious inheritance: such abundant riches and transcendant glory are found in it, as overwhelm the mind of man that here enters upon the close contemplation of it.
Heaven will appear to be a glorious inheritance, if we consider the glory of the place, the glory of the company, the glory of the employment, and the glory that will be then and there upon our souls and bodies. Lord, make us meet for this glorious inheritance of thy saints in light!
The next particular which the aposstle prays for, on behalf of the converted Ephesians, is this, that they might know or sensibly apprehend, the greatness of that divine power which God had exerted; first, in their conversion; next, in carrying on that work step by step, in spite of all opposition: then, in giving them the extraordinary gifts of his Spirit, as miracles, tongues, and prophecy; also, the sanctifying graces of the Spirit, as knowledge, faith, hope, love, joy, and patience, to inable them to go on in suffering for Christ to the uttermost; and lastly, that they might know the exceeding greatness of that power which God will farther exert towards them as believers, in raising up their dead bodies, to enter upon that glorious inheritance which God by promise insured to them; which power, he assures them, would bear some likeness to, and correspondence with that omnipotent power which God put forth, in raising Christ from the dead and advancing him to the heavenly glory, where he is Lord of all.
Observe here, What an heap of words our apostle makes use of, to set forth the power of God in the soul's conversion from the power of sin, and in the body's ressurrection from the power of the grave: he calls it "power, the power of God, the greatness of his power, and the exceeding greatness of his mighty power, and the power which raised up Christ from the dead."
Lord! what a glorious power was that which opened our Redeemer's grave, when he lay in the heart of the earth, with a mighty stone rolled upon his sepulchre! May the same Almighty Power break as under all those bars of unbelief, which keep our souls under the power and dominion of sin now, and at the great day break in pieces the bars of death and the grave, that it may be altogether impossible for us any longer to be holden by them: for towards thy saints, and in order to their salvation, thou dost engage the uttermost of thine attributes, the uttermost of thy love, and the exceeding greatness of thy power!
Our apostle, in these words, discovers to us Christ's exaltation, or that glory and dignity which, after his resurrection and ascension, the Father put upon him as God-man, or Mediator; far surpassing the glory of all created beings. Now this is represented to us by the notion, and under the metaphor, of Christ's sitting at God's right hand.
This imports, 1. Fulness of rest and pleasure, that he quietly, securely, and everlastingly, possesses all that happiness and satisfaction in heaven, which God himself is possessed of, and delighted with, far above all the pleasures and delightful satisfactions which all the glorified saints and glorious angels do or can possibly enjoy.
2. It implies a fulness of honour and glory, of dignity and respect. When Solomon set Bathsheba at his right hand, it was in token of honour and respect to her. Hebrews 2:9 we see Jesus to be crowned with glory and honour, sitting down at the right hand of the majesty on high.
3. Christ's sitting at God's right hand, imports his having all rule, dominion, and power, put into his hand, to govern all things both in heaven and on earth.
4. It imports and implies ability to execute that power; all those royal glorious endowments which God filled the human nature of Christ with, to make him fit to be the supreme head of his church, and the great and wise governor of the world; all this doth God's setting Christ at his own right hand import and imply.
The apostle expresses more plainly what he has said in the former verse figuratively; God hath exalted Christ far above all principalities and powers, might and dominion, and every name that is named; and hath put all things under his feet.
1. The eminency,
2. The universality, of our Lord's exaltation.
Its eminency appears in the height of his exaltation; he is not only above, but far above, all principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion; and in the lowness of the subjection of all things to him, having put all things under his feet. And the universality of Christ's exaltation appears, by instancing in principalities and powers, might and dominion; under which he comprehends all things that are excellent in heaven and earth, angels and men, & c. all creatures whatsoever being placed in a degree of inferiority beneath him, and in the lowest state of subjection under him.
Whence we learn, 1. That the human nature of Christ, and his glorified body, by virtue of that unspeakable union between the two natures of Christ, his Godhead and manhood, is so highly dignified and exalted in heaven, that all the glory of heaven and earth, of kings and emperors, of sun, moon, and stars, of the souls of just men made perfect, yea, and of the spotless, glorious angels themselves, is nothing to it, nor may be compared with it. Christ now sits in heaven, in our glorified humanity united to his glorious deity; that body which hung on an ignominious cross in blood and gore, now shines brighter than ten thousand suns in the kingdom of his Father. All this honour and homage, glory and praise, dominion and power, is due to our Lord and Redeemer, as the reward of his sufferings; God hath set him at his own right hand, far above all principalities and powers.
Learn, 2. That although the mediatorial kingdom of Christ shall cease at the last day, (and be delivered up by Christ unto his Father,) as to the way wherein he now administers it, by ruling in the midst of his enemies, whom he shall then have finally subdued and destroyed: yet his natural kingdom, as God, shall never cease, but continue in the world to come, without end.
Those words here, not only in this world, but in the world to come, do show the duration of Christ's kingly government, and that he is king for ever and ever, that his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endureth through eternal ages.
St. Paul having spoken of Christ's sovereignty in general, over all created beings, both in heaven and in earth, in the foregoing verses, doth in the words before us declare, that as he is an head of dominion and authority to the whole creation in general, so he is an head of influence to his church in particular.
Note, Christ was given by the Father to be the church's head. Now, this metaphor of an head implies several things; as,
1. Eminency above the church; as the head is above the members.
2. Authority over the church: the head governs all the members.
3. Oneness of nature betwixt him and his church to see an head of one nature, and members of another, is monstrous.
4. It implies a strict, intimate,and close union betwixt him and his church, as betwixt head and members; which union as to the members of the visible church, is a political union; but as to the invisible members, (real believers,) the union betwixt Christ and them is mystical, spiritual, supernatural, and indissoluble.
Lastly, this metaphor of an head, given here to Christ, implies a communication of influences from himself unto all his members; an influence of common gifts to the visible members of his body, and an influence of spiritual life and motion to the invisible members, true believers.
Indeed, Christ is the head of angels as well as saints, but in different respects; to angels, he is an head of dominion and government, an head of authority and superiority; but to his church, he is an head of dominion and direction also; not only an head of authority, but an head of vital influence too. The angels are Christ's honourable subjects, but saints are the mystical members of his body, the former are as then nobles in his kingdom, that attend upon his person, but the latter are the endeared spouse that lies in his bosom.
O glorious dignity of the meanest believer above the highest angel! For as the nobles in a prince's court think it a preferment and honour to wait upon his queen, so the glorious angels account it no dishonour to them to serve and administer to the saints, to which honourable office they are appointed, Hebrews 1:14 namely, to be ministering, or servicible spirits, for the good of them that are the heirs of salvation. As the chiefest servants disdain not to serve the heir, so the angels delight to serve the saints.
Observe, 2. As the character here given of Christ, The head of his church; so the honourable title put upon the church, she is his body: The head over all the church, which is his body; not his natural, but his mystical body.
This implies, 1. The church's union with Christ, and her relation to him.
2. The church's receiving influences from him, life, motion, and strength; all which the members of the body receive by virtue of union with their head.
3. It implies the duty of subjection and obedience due from the church to Christ, as from the members to the head.
4. It implies the union and order among the members themselves: that as all the members of the natural body sympathize with, and are subservient to, each other; so should all the members of the church, Christ's mystical body, employ their gifts, and improve their functions and offices, for the general good of the whole, and the mutual benefit and advantage of each other, as becomes the body of Christ, and members in particular.
But especially the church is said here to be the body of Christ, and He her head;
1. With respect to a communication of influences: Christ our head is our fountain of life; our head is our heart also, out of it are the issues of life: from him we live, by him we move, and our spiritual being is derived from him, strengthened and sustained by him; the whole church receives spiritual life, motion, and strength from Christ, as the body doth from the animating and enlivening soul.
2. Christ is called here the head of the church his body, with respect to a complication of interest, as well as a communication of influences. As the head and the body, as the husband and the wife, so Christ and his church are mutually concerned for each other: they stand and fall, live and die, together; whatsoever he has is theirs; they have nothing but through him, they have all things in him, and by him; his God is their God, his Father is their Father; his blood, his bowels, his merit, his Spirit, his life, his death, is theirs; and as all that he has is his church's, so all that he did is for his church, called here his body. He obeyed as his church's head; he died as her head; and hath in his church's name taken possession of heaven, as a purchased inheritance for her. How fitly then may Christ be called the head of the church, and the church be called the body of Christ?
Observe, 3. How Christ came to be the head of his church: God the Father gave him this authority, Ephesians 1:22, And gave him to be head over all things to the church; that dignity and superiority, that dominion and power, which Christ has over his church, is given to him by God the Father; none else was fit for it but himself: and although it was given him, what bold presumption is it, and will it be, in any person upon earth to assume any power over, or to exercise any office in, the church, when never called to it, nor authorized by Christ to undertake it!
We may demand of such confident undertakers, as the Pharisees demanded of the holy and humble Jesus, By what authority dost thou do these things? and who gave thee this authority?
Observe, 4. The high honour which is put upon the church by being Christ's body; by this she becomes Christ's fulness: The church which is his body, the fulness of him.
Yet note, The church is not the fulness of Christ personal, but of Christ mystical; not of his natural, but mystical, body: every saint, and every degree of grace in a saint, is part of Christ's fulness. The work of the ministry then is the best and noblest work in the world, because it is an adding to the fulness of Christ. God had but one Son in the world; and he made him a minister.
And if increasing the number of converts, and adding to persons' growth in grace, be an addition to Christ's fulness, then how glorious a sight will the great day afford when Christ shall have all his fulness; when there shall not be one saint wanting; nor one degree of grace in any saint wanting; when head and members shall be both full, full of grace, full of joy, full of glory: when Christ shall be fully glorified in his saints, and they everlastingly filled with the fulness of him that filleth all in all?
Observe, 5. The glorious title here given to our Lord Jesus Christ, as head of his church. He filleth all in all; he filleth all persons, both angels and men; he filleth all places, heaven with glory, earth with grace, hell with horror; he filleth all ordinances, prayer with prevalency, preaching with efficacy, & c. he filleth all relations, fathers with paternal affections, mothers with maternal bowels; he fills all conditions, riches with thankfulness, poverty with contentment.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany