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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Ephesians 2

 

 

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Verses 1-22

BELIEVERS CHANGED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH

(vs.1-10)

The first three verse of chapter 2 go back to consider the state and circumstances from which the Ephesians had been brought, the same sad state to which all mankind has been reduced as a result of sin. However, verses 4 to 6 show the state and circumstances into which the grace of God has brought us who believe. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (v.1) emphatically refers to the Ephesians, being Gentiles. Notice, they are not considered here from the viewpoint of their responsibility to God ( as is the case in Romans where man is seen as living in sins -- Romans 1:26-32; Romans 2:1), but from the viewpoint of being totally dead towards God. As dead they have no spark of response to Him and no ability to change anything. Therefore they were dependent absolutely on God's pure grace, as we all are!

They could do nothing for themselves. Their state was one of spiritual death, and their walk according to the course of this world, the only way they naturally knew. It was also according to the prince of the power of the air for Satan has usurped authority and has so completely corrupted people's minds by sin that they can see nothing else because they are sons of disobedience (v.2): their nature has been formed in that way. Therefore it is natural for even the world's "best" characters to have no living relationship to God. The expression "prince of the power of the air" indicates that the very atmosphere of mankind's existence has been polluted through giving in to Satan, as was true of Adam and Eve. Satan's evil influence has corrupted every area of human life.

Verse 3 shows the type of companionship -- empty and useless -- in which we have all been involved, whether Jews or Gentiles. The whole mass of mankind has been together indulging in unprofitable, sinful practices as led by their own lusts (natural desires), whether of the flesh or of the mind. The desires of the flesh are simply the selfish graspings of the "me generation," while the desires of the mind may be more refined for the mind can rationalize things in such a way as make sin seem good. But it is still merely selfish and still disobedience to God. Consider the things you may be doing now or are planning to do later, things in some way rationalized as good when they are really sinful! How tragic a sight, to see all the world madly rushing in this hopeless direction! Thus, the Jews as well as the Gentiles by are seen by God as "children of wrath" (v.3), those who by disobedience have incurred the wrath of God. How desolate, miserable and hopeless is man by nature!

"But God!" Wonderful is the intervention both of His grace and power! He who is "rich in mercy, because of His great loved with which He loved us," even in a state of spiritual death in the corruption of sins, has "made us alive together with Christ" (v.4). The riches of His mercy is first mentioned, mercy that is the outcome of His great love. Mercy is that compassion that comes down to meet one in his circumstances of need, sorrow or misery. Such was the Samaritan in Luke 10:33 who "came where he was" to the man who had been attacked by robbers and left half dead, and cared for his needs. What great love has made our Savior stoop so low to meet us in the extremity of our hopeless misery, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24) and bringing us to Himself! What mercy! but it is because of the love of His own blessed nature.

"Made us alive together with Christ" refers to His bringing us out of spiritual death into eternal life. The power of the voice of the Son of God has done this, as John 5:25 affirms: "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." One may object and argue that the dead cannot hear, but this depends on whose voice is speaking. He who is superior to death can make the spiritually dead hear, and in hearing they live. The literal resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:41-44) is a picture of spiritual resurrection. When the Lord spoke, Lazarus came forth. The dead man heard and responded.

Thus, by divine grace alone, our state is totally changed from spiritual death to resurrection life. Nor are we left in the graveyard, that is, in a world sunk in the corruption of death. For God's ways with us involve more than mercy. We are told at the end of verse 5, "by grace you have been saved." Mercy has had compassion on us where we were, but grace lifts us high above our circumstances. It saves us from our sins and it saves us from an evil world as verse 6 makes clear: "and raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." God's grace or favor has power in it. We saw (chapter 1:3) that our blessings are in heavenly places, but now we find also that our position is in heavenly places. We are seen there because our Representative is there, the Lord Jesus. We surely do not enjoy it as we should, but the fact remains absolute: our permanent position is in heavenly places.

While the above is true for the believer now, verse 7 lifts us up in heart to consider God's great object in such blessing. Whether in the millennial age or "the age of ages" (eternity), our blessings and position in Christ will "show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Eternity will never exhaust the wonder and preciousness of such grace and kindness, and never diminish its luster.

The concluding verses of the section (8-10) show that salvation is entirely by grace on God's part, pure favor at a time when we deserved wrath and judgment. "Through faith" is the means by which we receive such grace, faith being not in itself a thing of merit, but that which rightly recognizes all merit in the Lord Jesus Christ, having confidence simply in Himself. "And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Even faith to believe is seen as God's gift for in our natural state faith was far from us. God alone has worked marvelously in changing matters, giving us faith and salvation by grace, and indeed every spiritual blessing.

Verse 9 firmly guards against the human natural thought to add works to grace and faith: "not of works, lest anyone should boast." All occasion for people's self exaltation is utterly taken away. We are reduced to our true place and God is exalted. Believers are seen to be "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (v.10). Precious work of new creation, by power infinitely higher than all human work! Let us delight to think of what it means to be the subjects of God's miraculous work. Yet His work in us is "for good works" (v.10), for good works are the proper result after God's work has brought salvation. Yet God has before prepared even these good works for us to walk in. Therefore, if we believers do good works, we have nothing to boast of, nor do we have any excuse for not doing them.

BROUGHT NEAR IN ONE BODY

(vs.11-18)

Previous to verse 11 the blessing of every saint of God is seen. Now the precious truth is considered as to the mystery of the Church of God as the body of Christ and as the building of God. It is most instructive to see how this subject is approached in verses 11 and 12. Gentiles must remember the horrible pit from which they have been rescued. It is grace alone that has taken us from an utterly desolate condition, so we must guard against the natural and contemptible tendency to glory in flesh because of the greatness of the blessing God has given us. Israel fell because they were proud of being blessed by God, and Gentiles are now taking the same attitude (Romans 11:18-23). Gentiles had none of the advantages Israel had. They were called uncircumcision (often in contempt) by the Jews. They were "without Christ," with no promise even of the Messiah such as Israel had; aliens with a strong demarcation between them and Israel. They were "strangers," unknown since having no covenant relationship with God, for the promises and covenants were only for Israel (Romans 9:4). "No hope" and "without God," describes the general condition of Gentiles as such. Even in the Old Testament there were exceptions to this general hopeless situation, for some Gentiles were brought to God, which was a witness that God could reach the Gentiles in spite of their general condition. But the Ephesians knew that they were in such a hoeless condition before the gospel came to them. They were not to forget how great was the grace required to save them.

"But now" (v.13) connects with "But God" (v.4). A divine work, fully accomplished, has established us "in Christ Jesus." Though at one time "far off," we are brought near to God by the blood of Christ. That precious blood satisfies all the requirements of the righteous throne of God so He is delighted to have near to Him all those whom that blood has redeemed.

"For He Himself is our peace" (v.14). This is not the question of peace with God but of peace between Jews and Gentiles, who previously were enemies. Christ Himself is the present Bond between the believers of both groups. He has made both one, His blessed work of redemption has broken down the "middle wall" that so separated them. This middle wall involved both the law of God itself which separated Jews from Gentiles and the difference in cultures resulting mainly from that law.

The Lord Jesus has abolished the natural enmity between these peoples "in His flesh." Coming in flesh and blood, He has voluntarily "been put to death in the flesh" (1 Peter 3:18). This took away the guilt of believing Gentiles who were without law, but it also delivered Jews from the bondage of the Mosaic law which they had broken. "The law of commandments contained in ordinances" (v.15) has kept Jews and Gentiles far apart for the Jew boasted in the law, while the Gentile would have nothing of it. Yet the Jews only observed the law outwardly with selected forms and ceremonies. They could be fiercely zealous of it, yet have no real heart for obeying it to please God. But in Christ this is all done away. He has made in Himself "one new man" of two divergent peoples. This "one new man" is the body of Christ, the Church. So He who is our peace has made peace in a sphere that was once so extremely antagonistic.

This peace has united Jewish and Gentile believers with one another because both are reconciled to God in one body (v.16), joined together in a unity that is closer than the unity of Israel's tribes. This is an amazing work of the Spirit of God. The cross of Christ is the basis of it. Christ is the Head and Jewish and Gentile believers are unitedly His one body, the one new man of verse 15. How precious is such a unity in contrast to the enmity which once existed, which was slain by the cross. The cross accomplished this wonderful work, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47) has confirmed it in manifest testimony.

Christ has come in resurrection to preach peace to both Jews and Gentiles (v.17) His first words to His disciples gathered in the upper room were "Peace to you" (Luke 24:36), and He has continued to preach this message through His servants since that time, particularly through Paul who greatly emphasizes the truth of the one body.

Such a message of peace involves the full revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for through the Son both Jewish and Gentile believers now have access by the one Spirit of God to the Father (v.18). Our unity is vitally connected with the Trinity.

THE CHURCH AS GOD'S HOUSEHOLD

(vs.19-22)

The Church has been shown to be one body, and the apostle will return to this in chapter 3:6. But in verses 19 to 22 the Church is considered as the building of God in various ways. Then in chapter 5:22-33 the aspect of the Church is seen as the espoused (or engaged) wife of Christ, not yet married, but to be married in the future. Interestingly, all of these are seen together illustrated in Genesis 2:21-22. Adam's wife was of His body before she became His wife. She is said to be "built" (JND) from his rib, a beautiful illustration of God's marvelous building, for she is typical of the Church, the body of Christ, the wife of Christ, and the building of God.

Now, rather than being strangers (unknown) and foreigners (unrelated), believing Gentiles are "fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God" (v.19). Being fellow citizens, we are of the same city, that is, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-10), so we have the same future prospect in view. Our citizenship is there now, though the manifestation of this is future. Being members of the household of God is a matter for our present enjoyment: we are welcomed within the house as having our proper dwelling there.

Though it is true from one viewpoint that believers are in the house of God, yet it is true also that they comprise the house of God. Peter speaks of each believer as a living stone, all "being built up a spiritual house," which is the Church of God (1 Peter 2:5). Our chapter speaks of this same house as "a holy temple in the Lord," emphasizing the fact that it is the place where God's glory is manifested, not in public display, but in moral reality.

The foundation of God's house is vitally important here, just as we see in Revelation 21:1-27 that the foundations of the heavenly city are most prominent. See also Hebrews 11:10. In the building of the tower and city at Babel, we read of no foundation. Perhaps this indicated that a foundation was not significant since the building and tower would not endure. Here the foundation is said to be "of the apostles and prophets," not that they- are the foundation, for Christ Himself is the only foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). But the apostles and prophets have laid the foundation by proclaiming the full truth concerning Him, His person, His work, His glory, His relationship with His body the Church, and all those truths that give Him the place of supreme honor. This involves all the apostles and prophets have written in the Scriptures.

Christ is also the corner stone of the house. He gives character to all the building and binds it together. He is not only the underlying foundation on which others build, but "in Him the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (v.21). Every stage of the building is vitally connected with and dependent upon Him at all times as it grows. In connection with Israel we read of the headstone or capstone (Zechariah 4:7) of Israel's temple, which seems to be connected with the completion of the building. But as to the Church this does not appear to be mentioned, for which there is surely a divine reason. Perhaps this may be because the Church will not be displayed on earth as a completed building. The Church as the body of Christ is looked at as complete at any given time in its history on earth, but as the temple it is not yet complete, for it will continue to grow until the Rapture when the Church will be forever complete. The glory of God is not yet as fully displayed in the Church as it eventually will be in glory. Yet as it grows, God's glory should in some measure be more and more manifested.

"In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit" (v.22). This is perhaps the most wonderful and vital matter for us in connection with this building, the house of God, today God is building believers together for the marvelous purpose of making them His own dwelling place at the present time! Israel had so defiled the temple in Jerusalem -- the only temple God had ever commanded to be built on earth - that when the Lord Jesus came He set aside that temple by speaking of "the temple of His body" (John 2:19-21). While God could no longer dwell in Israel's temple, He could dwell with perfect complacency in the body of the Lord Jesus. But since Christ has returned to glory, God is building a temple now -- the Church -- that is given the wonderful dignity of being the habitation of God. This is by the power of the Spirit of God who indwells the Church. God dwells by His Spirit in every believer individually (1 Corinthians 6:19), but also in the Church unitedly (1 Corinthians 3:16). This is the wonderful condescension of His grace. This is the only temple in which God dwells in the world today. May we learn to respond with fitting appreciation to the wonder of God's presence in the midst of His beloved saints.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ephesians 2:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/ephesians-2.html. 1897-1910.

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