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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Ephesians 2

 

 

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Verses 1-22

Ephesians 2:1. You hath he quickened. The word quickened is not in the Greek, but the old Latin version repeats it here from the fifth verse, presuming it to be implied. It reads well without it, thus: And you, when dead in trespasses and sins, wherein you once walked, &c.

Who were dead in trespasses and sins. In Colossians 2:13 the apostle uses a similar expression: “You being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh.” Sinners are also said to be “alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them — alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works.” Ephesians 4:18. Sin is the death of the soul, it eats forbidden fruit, and dies. By seeking happiness in created good, it is drawn away from Christ, the fountain of life. Spiritual death consists in a deprivation of the image and likeness of God, which is restored by regeneration and vital union with Christ. When papists say therefore that man is only half dead, they either err, or we do not rightly apprehend their meaning. Man is morally and totally dead in Adam, and judicially dead in the eye of the law. This however we must concede, that man, born under the promise of the woman’s Seed, has much grace restored in the light of the gospel, as is noted in Genesis 3:15. Luke 19:24. John 1:9; John 16:8. Titus 2:11.

Ephesians 2:2. Ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. The apostle, following the language of our Saviour in John 12:31; John 16:11, gives the enemy the title he assumes; and the children of this world form their own laws by custom, as rivers form their beds by currents. The “prince” allures men by their passions, “the lusts of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life.” The young are attracted by pleasure, the world by riches, and the avaricious by gold.

Ephesians 2:3. And were by nature the children of wrath, shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin. Psalms 51:5. φυσει, nature, refers not to our original pure and perfect nature, but to the evil nature in which we are born. Our will was in Adam’s will, and our consent in his consent; and therefore we are begotten in his fallen state. The wrath on him for the fall, is on his children; and doubly so for our actual transgressions. In the imputation of original sin there is no unrighteousness with God; children naturally suffer for their fathers’ sin by disease, and morally by a tainted mind. Socinians, who talk of the innocence of human nature, and that our venalities (for they will not allow of sin) are by imitation, build on unfounded systems of philosophy. They err in not making the proper contrast between the native grandeur and moral baseness of man.

Ephesians 2:4-6. God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us. The cause of our redemption is wholly with God, who so loved the world, totum genus humanum, the whole human kind, as Grotius says, that he gave his only-begotten Son. And here indeed is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son into the world, to be the propitiation for our sins. He hath raised us up by the life of regeneration, and quickened us together with Christ, by whose grace we are saved.

Ephesians 2:7. That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace. In the gospel ages, as described by the prophet. Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 65:25. In all the past dispensations, God has always been enlarging his promises to the church, and displaying his mercy in new and more enlivened forms. In our present oppression, Zion cannot fully enjoy the things that eye hath not seen. But on conversion we receive a name and a place in the church, a rank and dignity as the sons of God, and soon shall resemble the Saviour in glory.

Ephesians 2:8. By grace are ye saved through faith. Augustine has left us a treatise on grace, in which he argues fairly, that “grace is a gift, in which three things are implied: — He who gives — he to whom the favour is given — and the manner in which it is bestowed. First, he who gives in the perfection of a sovereign, ought to give of his own, and must be in power and situation to give what he confers. He ought to be supremely good, to give willingly; he ought to be supremely powerful, to give liberally; and to be supremely independent, to give without the hopes of return; otherwise it is a barter, and not a gift. Secondly, he to whom it is given ought to merit nothing of him that gives. If he deserved it, the withholding of it would be injustice. And the receiver ought to be in extreme poverty and indigence, otherwise he might refuse and reject the favour. Thirdly, with regard to the manner of conferring the grace, it ought to be freely given; for what is given of constraint is regarded as an extortion: a gift should supersede merit, lest the merit should require the recompense. It ought even to presede the desires, the hopes, and request of him who receives it, because in all those ways the recipient may assume a plea of merit. All those qualities associate in the word grace; and they all are found in the unspeakable gift of the Son of God, and in the redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 2:10. Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. προητοιμασεν should, in this place, be rendered “prepared,” as indeed it is in Calvin’s commentary: Que Dieu a preparees, afin que cheminions en icelles. This reading harmonizes nature and grace. In the vegetable kingdom, the foliage is prepared, and opens; the bloom follows, the fruit succeed, grow, and mature, in its season. In like manner, the new heart should ever be followed by renovation of life. So in fact all the versions read.

Ephesians 2:12-13. At that time, in the miseries of a heathen state, ye were without Christ. Without a Mediator and Redeemer, having lost the covenant of the first fathers, being aliens also to Abraham’s covenant, and strangers from the covenants of promise, which Jehovah, the Angel, came repeatedly to Israel to renew, with great enlargements, as is noticed by the prophet. Isaiah 63:9. — Having no hope. Nothing more than traditions and inferential hopes, as in Cyrus’s speech to his sons, concerning a life to come. — Without God in the world. Without the knowledge and worship of the true God, and his Son Jesus Christ, as Jerome says on these words. — But now, ye who sometimes [formerly] were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Perhaps Paul had the promise in his eye, “Hearken unto me, ye stout hearted, that are far from righteousness. I bring near my righteousness, it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry.” Isaiah 46:12-13. In ancient times, enemies were reconciled by covenants and sacrifices, as in the next words.

Ephesians 2:14-22. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition. The apostle refers to the provoking wall in the temple, which separated the court of the gentiles from the courts of Israel. No uncircumcised person was allowed to pass the barrier. This wall in the second temple was three cubits high, so that a man, small in stature, could not look over it. Josephus adds, that a man stood at the gate with a massive sword, on which was written, “the stranger that comes near shall die.” In Acts 21:28, we find that the jews were about to stone Paul, because, they said, he had polluted that holy place by bringing a Greek into the temple. The fact however was, that Paul had only walked with Trophimus an Ephesian in the city. But now Christ, on the great theatre of the cross, having slain the enmity of the carnal commandment, gives with equal right both jew and gentile access by one Spirit to the Father. He gave the Holy Spirit in Cornelius’s house, with all his gifts and graces, as he had done to the jews. Acts 10:44-45. Nay more, the believing gentiles were not only admitted, but made stones and pillars in the living temple, the body of Christ.

REFLECTIONS.

The apostle having illustrated the promises respecting the mediatorial glory and exaltation of Christ, proceeds in this chapter to show what the Lord had done for his saints. He describes the depravity and the misery of the benighted gentiles, and the awful courses they pursued while the servants of Satan. It is good to remember what we were before grace made us better. How misguided were our pursuits; how foolish, dissipated, and wicked were our lives; and how we sported, dead in trespasses and sins, on the verge of hell and destruction. The dark portrait enlivens the characters of grace, and teaches us that we owe all to redeeming love. We had perished eternally, had not God who is rich in mercy loved us, and quickened us by light, and life, and love, in the secret work and influences of regenerating grace, and raised us up to have a name and a lot with his people.

What do I say, with his people! Nay, but it is to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. There is no glory which the head enjoys, but he will share it with his members. Revelation 3:21. They shall live, for he lives; they shall be with him in his kingdom, and see his face, amid the eulogies poured on the saints. They shall behold his glory; yea, and know with assurance that they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is. What then are crosses, compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us at his coming?

Oh then, what we owe to grace, the grace of Christ, by which we are saved. Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by his mercy he saves us. He is the Root and offspring of Jesse. Works must follow our believing, and we must abound more and more in all the fruits of righteousness. We love his name, we love his way, we love his people; for he that loveth not, knoweth not God.

Nor should it escape remark, that the superabounding of grace to sinners is liberal like himself. The one Mediator, the only Lord and Redeemer of men, hath reconciled all things to himself. Distinctions between the jew and the greek, in Christ exist no more. He has slain the enmity, the fretting and vexatious enmity of walls, bars, and distinctions. He has brought, as he told the jews, John 10:16, the other sheep, the gentile sheep into Israel’s fold, that henceforth there might be but one fold, under one shepherd. The new temple, built on the tops of the mountains, is the catholic temple of all nations. In him, circumcision, and castes, and colour exist no more. What an argument is this for christians to love one another, and to do good to others as to the members of our own body.

In a word, the grace and glory conferred by Christ on the church is permanent. It is a living temple. Ye are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so will thy God, oh Zion, rejoice over thee. The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; great empires shall sink like the swells of the ocean in the time of hurricane; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace, which I have made with the blood of the cross, be removed, saith the Lord. Isaiah 54:10.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 2:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/ephesians-2.html. 1835.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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