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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Ephesians 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-23

Ephesians 1:4-5. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love. What words of consolation! The full soul of the apostle flows without restraint, while he opens the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Having predestinated us to the adoption of sons, the heavenly Father blesses his family with all the treasures of grace and glory. St. John opens his epistle to the seven churches with the same eulogies: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” St. Peter consoles the churches scattered through proconsular Asia in the same manner, (though cursed and excommunicated by the jews) calling them “Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit to obedience; a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, to show forth the praises of him who had called them out of darkness into marvellous light.” What better could they do than to give a suffering people the plenitude of Abraham’s covenant, and Israel’s hope?

But it could not be supposed that the serpent would allow the churches to enjoy these sweet fruits of the tree of life, without endeavours to empoison their food with endless disputations about providence and grace; subjects far surpassing the ken of mortals. Oh the depth! “Lucifer —

sat apart, and reasoned high

On providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,

Free-will, fixed fate, foreknowledge absolute,

And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.

MILTON.

Augustine, a father who often changed his opinions, when writing against the Pelagians, regards mankind as lost in a common mass, and affirms “that God predestinated some to eternal life, not by a foresight of their merit, but of his own good pleasure to show his mercy; but the rest in the same mass, he has reprobated from the celestial kingdom, not by a foresight of their personal demerit, but for his own good pleasure, to show his divine righteousness in leaving them in the perdition to which they were justly adjudged.” Cæteros vero in eadem massa reliquit à cœlesti regno probatos, non ex eorum suæ voluntatis beneplacito ad ostensionem divinæ justiæ perditos in sua perditione justo judicio deserentis.

These are the doctrines now called Calvinism, which disturbed the peace of the church in the fifth century, and still divide the communion of christians. When St. Hilary became acquainted with the effects of those doctrines, he wrote most respectfully to acquaint Augustine, that many were publishing in different parts of France those novum et inutile, novel and useless doctrines, as he is pleased to call them.

PROSPER, about the same time, admonished Augustine of the same things; adding, that though many fathers had written against the Pelagian heresy, yet they had never consigned any man to the hatred of God without assigning reasons. FAUSTUS, a French bishop, and after him St. Jerome, speak to the same effect.

James Sodolet, another bishop of that age, says in his comment on Romans 8:30, Deus neminem ex solo divinæ voluntatis arbitrio aut elegit, aut reprobat, sed hunc elegit, quia prænovit eum non aspernaturum divinum vocationem, et fidei lumen non aversaturum: illum verò reprobat, quia prævidit ipsum oppositurum obicem divinæ vocationi, et divimam gratiam repudiaturum. “God of his mere good pleasure neither elects nor reprobates any man; but one he elects, because he foreknows him, as not despising his divine vocation, nor receding from the light of faith. Another he reprobates, because he foresees him about to oppose the end of his calling, and repudiate the attractions of grace.”

Thus it was that one controversy arose out of another, and so serious were the disputations about predestination in the fifth century that the council of Chalons took up the subject, and condemned the opinions of those who had made a wrong use of Augustine’s doctrine of grace. The fathers of that council were horrified at the idea, that God should reprobate any man for his mere good pleasure, and make him as miserable as sin and hell can make a rational being, once bearing the image of his Maker, and blessed in Adam. Such an idea is revolting to all the moral feelings of the heart, and hostile to the gracious cares of Him whose tender mercies are over all his works.

Ephesians 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. The Greek απολυτρωσιν is equivalent to full redemption. Our ransom is by the atoning sacrifice, as stated in Leviticus 16:20. Such also is the current language of the scriptures. Romans 3:25. Hebrews 9:14. The consequent pardon of sin, and remission of punishment, is couched in the most healing and balmy forms of speech that language can devise. Our sins shall be blotted out as a cloud, and cast into the depths of the sea, and be remembered no more. The pardon shall be accompanied with comfort: the moment that the fire of the altar touches the heart, remission is sealed with the ernest of our inheritance.

Ephesians 1:9. Having made known to us the mystery of his will, by opening the eyes of our understanding, as in Ephesians 1:18, to penetrate the shadows of the law, — and discern the plenitude of the prophetic spirit, that Christ should gather the gentiles to his fold, and make the whole earth the family of God. He treats us no longer as servants, but as friends, and as sons, that we might see the great things he hath prepared for them that love him.

Ephesians 1:10. That he might gather together in one; or rather, receive in one, all things in Christ, which indicates the great delight which Christ takes in his church. The fulness of time is the gospel age for calling the gentiles, as in Galatians 4:4; but the gathering of things in heaven, an idea of frequent occurrence in Paul’s epistles, cannot import less than that our redemption is intimately connected with the augmentation of angelic knowledge, and the encrease of celestial happiness.

Ephesians 1:14. Till the redemption of the purchased possession. Here the versions vary. “Till the redemption of what will be obtained; or, till the acquisition of the redemption; or, till the redemption of the adoption; or, till the acquisition of the possession.” Beza, Piscator, and Zanchius add other glosses, but they seem wide of the mark. Suffice it to say, the Lord’s portion is his people; and our portion, or inheritance, is the enjoyment of God in glory. The earnest of the Spirit is explained in 2 Corinthians 1:22, and Romans 8:16.

Ephesians 1:17-18. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. Under the term Father, the whole deity is understood. Christ himself is styled “the Lord of glory;” and the word is equivalent to this, that God, the Father of glory, is also our Father. The mercy desired is, the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. The natural man cannot attain to this knowledge. It is the Spirit which illuminates the mind, and opens the earnests of heaven in the heart. Then it is we read the scriptures with new eyes, and love with new affections. The apostle prays thus also for the Colossians, that they might be filled with the knowledge of his will: chap. Ephesians 1:9-18. And for Timothy, that the Lord would give him understanding in all things. Such a knowledge opens a fountain of life and heaven in the soul; and without it no man can be a minister of the new covenant.

Ephesians 1:19. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. This power is displayed in the work of our redemption, in despoiling principalities and powers, in removing the guilt and power of sin, in changing the curse for a blessing, in vanquishing death by immortality and life, and in giving us a heavenly kingdom far surpassing the terrestrial paradise which Adam lost. To know this is life everlasting.

Ephesians 1:20. And set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places: in supercœlestibus. Perhaps the plural number is used in reference to the thrones promised to the disciples, and the seats of celestial powers. The inauguration of Christ into the Mediatorial throne is the sublimest subject of revelation. The throne denotes, as at the close of the Lord’s prayer, the kingdom, the power, and the glory of Christ. It is the throne of grace, before which the angels, and the church adore. Psalms 103:19; Psalms 45:5. Zechariah 6:13. The apostle’s ideas seem to be comprised in five views.

(1) The Father, Son, and Spirit; the unity of deity discovered in the cloud of glory.

(2) αρχης, the thrones of the supreme hierarchy, cherubim and seraphim.

(3) The mediate hierarchy, dominions, principalities, powers; for the plural number is used in Ephesians 3:10.

(4) The lower hierarchy, archangels, angels, virtues or powers.

(5) The hierarchy of the church, apostles, prophets, saints; for the humblest believer is a member of the body of Christ. Revelation 3:21.

Thus Christ has a name above every name, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. In him the whole family of heaven and earth is named. He is head of the church, which is his body, being composed of many members; and as the soul fills the body with life, and power, and motion, so Christ is the fulness of deity, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

REFLECTIONS.

St. Paul had laboured long, and fought with beasts at Ephesus. This church was dear to him as his own bowels. His soul overflowed with gratitude on contemplating all the spiritual blessings and privileges they enjoyed in Christ; privileges which did not come by chance, but were framed by the counsel of God’s eternal wisdom. He, sitting all serene in the heavens, calls the things that are not as though they were; and says to Abraham, I have made thee a father of many nations, when as yet he had no son. Just so he unfolds the plan of redeeming love, called the mystery of his will: Ephesians 1:9. This plan is, that Christ should redeem us by his blood; that we should obtain forgiveness of sins, and the adoption of sons, to the praise of his glory. This plan is also, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Thus we are predestinated, that we should be to the praise of his glory, as is twice repeated, or conformed to the image of God’s own Son. Oh most glorious and consoling doctrine! Our heavenly Father has been laying up for us a thousand treasures of love, that we might obtain the heavenly inheritance of his sons and daughters. As he chose a wife for Isaac, so he calls and chooses the spouse of Christ.

The jews can boast no more of being the chosen, the elect and peculiar people of God. This predestination is, that the gentiles should be fellow- heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promises of Christ by the gospel, or the effusion of the Spirit on all flesh. Joel 2:32. This doctrine is the more consoling, as it excludes no man from the fold and family of God. The benefits of this election are expressly held out in Ephesians 1:1, to all the saints at Ephesus, and to all believers in Christ, wheresoever they may live. “God hath set the gates of heaven wide open,” as the great and learned Erasmus observes on this text. There is not the most distant idea whatever, that any man who comes under the sound of the gospel is cut off from the blessings of divine predestination, or the plan of redemption. And as to the heathen, they may be saved in Christ by sincerely following the light of nature, as the scriptures allow. Acts 10:34. Hebrews 11:6.

Why then give an ill sense to a doctrine the most pregnant with comfort and joy? What father, in laying up treasure for his children, and in tracing in the counsel of his own pleasure their several trades and professions, has the smallest design to cut most of them off from inheritance before they have done either good or evil? And is not the Father of mercies the author of all good dispositions in parents? And is he not infinitely more compassionate than all parents? If we being evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more shall our Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Fear not then, oh trembling soul, to receive to thyself all the gracious benefits and overflowing comfort of God’s electing love; and let it be thy sincerest aim to conform to all the requisitions of his grace.

The apostle brings the subject to an admirable close, by praying that the saints might be enlightened to know the hope to which they were called in Christ; the power of his resurrection, both in the omnipotence of the gospel, and in the work of the Spirit; and that they might see the church filled with him who filleth all in all.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/ephesians-1.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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