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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Ephesians 2

 

 

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Verses 1-10

Salvation by sovereign grace

Ephesians 2:1-10

In this portion of scripture the apostle magnifies the riches of God's grace in the salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ. He describes what we were by nature (Ephesians 2:1-3). He then relates what God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). He next observes our present and future blessings and glory (Ephesians 2:6-10).

Ephesians 2:1. Every man by nature is dead in sin – separated from God (Ephesians 2:12), without God, without Christ, without the Spirit, completely deprived of any spiritual ability to do anything good (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 13:23; Romans 8:7; Romans 3:10-12). The fountain cause of this spiritual death was Adam's sin (Romans 5:12; Romans 5:17-19). This corrupt state of sin and spiritual deadness is continued through reproduction (Psalms 51:5; Psalms 58:3).

Ephesians 2:2. Sins and evil are the path (road or direction) in which all unbelievers walk. Walking denotes a continuous practice or tenor of life. Sin was our daily employment and occupation. In this walk of darkness we had two guides.

1. ‘According to the corrupt course and custom of the world.’ The customs, manners and way of life of fallen flesh determined our thoughts, values and conversation (Isaiah 55:8; 1 Corinthians 3:3). We walked as carnal men walk, not as spiritual men walk.

2. ‘According to the prince of the power of the air.’ This is Satan, who is called this, not because of any power he had over winds, storms and weather, but because he is the prince of a legion of demons and evil spirits who have residence in the air. He has great power to blind men's minds, fill their hearts with evil and lead them into great sin. Men walk after him, imitate him and do his will (John 8:44). He reigns now in all unbelievers.

Ephesians 2:3. The apostle says that in this condition, conduct and state we all (Jew and Gentile, himself included) lived and walked.

1. Our course of life was ‘in the lusts of our flesh.’ This has to do mainly with the body – its appetites, corrupt desires and sensual delights (Galatians 5:16-21).

2. We fulfilled the desires of the flesh and mind.’ Desire here is the will and thoughts of our evil minds. Not only is our flesh corrupt, but also our affections, understanding and wills. We sinned because we willed to sin. We walked in darkness because we loved darkness (John 3:19).

3. The reason for all this: ‘We were children of wrath by nature.’ This is the root or cause of our sin and miserable slavery. From our conception, birth and cradle we are children of wrath – God's wrath!

Ephesians 2:4-5. ‘But God who is rich in mercy...’ Mercy is an attribute of God as well as righteousness and justice. God's mercy is plenteous, free and infinite in Christ. His love and mercy to his chosen people in Christ are from everlasting and arise altogether out of himself, not because of any merit foreseen in them.

‘Even when we were dead in sins,’ he made us alive in union and fellowship with Christ. Consider this in two ways.

1. When our Lord lived on this earth, we lived in him. When he died, we died in him. When Christ arose and ascended, we arose and are now seated with him in the heavenlies. In this sense we are quickened with Christ.

2. In regeneration (the new birth) a sinner (dead spiritually) is made alive in Christ. He is given a new nature, a new heart and becomes a new creature. Christ is that life: for he is the author, the cause and the source of life (Colossians 3:4). It is a gift of his grace.

Ephesians 2:6-7. This is a spiritual resurrection from death (in sin and separation from God) unto spiritual life (a living union with God in Christ). Christ (our Representative, our federal Head, our great High Priest) has already entered into heaven, and we are loved, forgiven, accepted and made one with God in him. Throughout eternity we shall be displayed as the trophies of God's wonderful grace. All of the elect angels and elect men will forever praise the Lord for his mercy and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Revelation 5:9-14).

Ephesians 2:8-9. We are redeemed from death and sin to life and glory by the free grace of God. Election, redemption, calling, repentance, faith, sanctification and eternal glory are all ours by the free grace of our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30). Faith in Christ is the way, means, or instrument by which we receive and enjoy salvation; and this saving faith is not the product of man, but the gift of God. We receive salvation by faith and give all the glory to God. Any works of righteousness done by us are not ours, but are by the grace of God.

Ephesians 2:10. However, lest (by commending God's grace as the cause, source and sustaining power in salvation and excluding works as making any contribution in our justification) the apostle should give the impression that works and a holy life are unnecessary, he adds, ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.’ The spirit that lives in us is the spirit of love, joy, faith, humility and truth. Our calling is a ‘holy calling.’ Our Father is a ‘merciful and holy Father.’ Our walk is with him (Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 6:11).


Verses 11-22

No more strangers – but sons

Ephesians 2:11-22

In the preceding verses of this chapter Paul magnifies the riches of God's grace toward Jew and Gentile sinners. We all were dead in trespasses and sins. We all were children of wrath, following Satan and fulfilling our lusts and desires. But God quickened us together with Christ. Both Jew and Gentile have need to praise the grace of God (Romans 3:19-24).

Ephesians 2:11. The Ephesians are called upon to remember and consider further (in order that God's grace and mercy to them might be magnified) that they were not only dead in sin, but were Gentile dogs – not of the covenant people Israel, not of the house of Abraham, not of the people to whom the promises, prophecies and sacrifices were given. They were called uncircumcised by way of reproach and contempt.

Ephesians 2:12. As Gentiles, ‘Ye were without Christ.’ The Messiah was promised to Israel, the prophecies concerning the Saviour were given to Israel and the types, sacrifices and priesthood were of Israel.

‘Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.’ So great an alienation and distance was there between Jew and Gentile that Gentiles could not dwell among Jews, eat nor converse with them, marry them, eat the Passover, nor join with them in worship.

‘Strangers from the covenant of promise,’ to the covenant given to Abraham, to the covenant at Sinai and to the covenant of grace. It might read, ‘strangers to the promises of the covenant.’

‘Having no hope’ of a Messiah or salvation by him, no hope of the first resurrection or eternal life (Revelation 20:5-6).

‘Without God in the world,’ without any knowledge of God, without any prescribed worship of God, without any sacrifice or sin-offering by which to approach God. It was said, ‘He who dwells outside the land of Israel is like one who has no God!’

Ephesians 2:13. But now, being chosen in Christ, redeemed in Christ, called to faith in Christ and becoming believers in Christ, we who were far from his law, his land, his people (aliens, strangers, without any knowledge of God) are made one with God through the blood of Christ. We are sons of God, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Near, so near to God –

Nearer I cannot be:

For in the person of his Son,

I am as near as he!

Ephesians 2:14. Christ is the author of peace with God, the giver of peace to our hearts and the maker of peace between Jew and Gentile. The wall may refer to the wall in the temple which divided the court of Israel from the court of the Gentiles and kept them at a distance in worship; but it definitely is the ceremonial law of circumcision, types and sacrifices, for Christ is the fulfillment of all for Jew and Gentile (Romans 1:16-17).

v. l5. Christ, in his flesh, abolished all differences between Jew and Gentile. He is the tabernacle, where God meets men and men meet God. He is the one great High Priest, who intercedes on behalf of all. He is the Passover, the Lamb of God, the atonement. Circumcision is of the heart (not in the flesh) and results in a broken heart toward sin and God. All believers are one (Galatians 6:15; Galatians 3:28).

Ephesians 2:16. By one body is meant either the human body of Christ, in which he obeyed the law, suffered for our sins, arose and ascended, or it may be meant that he reconciled all believers into one mystical body, the church of which he is the head. This he did by the cross, having slain the enmity of the law (both moral and ceremonial) (Ephesians 5:22-23).

v. l7. He came by his spirit in the ministry of his apostles, preaching Christ, who is our peace (peace made by his blood) and the gospel of peace to Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 2:18. Jew and Gentile have access to the Father through Christ. Neither the law nor justice stand in the way of a believing sinner approaching God if he comes through Christ alone (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Ephesians 2:19-20. Now we are no more aliens (strangers or foreigners) but citizens of the city of God, sons of God in his household. Christ is the foundation on which the church is built. He is the cornerstone which knits together all believers – Jew and Gentile, Old and New Testament saints, saints on earth and saints above, in all ages and places (Matthew 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

Ephesians 2:21-22. This is a spiritual building and will abide for ever. It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It grows and is brought together as God calls out his elect, It is not finished yet as it will be. It is the habitation of God through the spirit. God dwells in his people (1 Peter 2:4-5).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 2:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/ephesians-2.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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