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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Ephesians 1

 

 

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Verse 1

Ephesians 1:1 f. Opening Salutation.—The author (Paul?) writes to the consecrated and loyal people of God who are "in Christ" at some unknown place (see Introd.) in Asia Minor.


Verses 3-14

Ephesians 1:3-14. A Paragraph of Praise.—God, who is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is thanked for the blessings—embracing every form of spiritual riches—bestowed through their mystical relationship to Christ in the heavenly sphere upon the writer and upon his readers. The fact of their Christianity is evidence of their vocation to be holy and blameless before Him in love—a vocation which runs back into the eternal counsels (Ephesians 1:4): God has predetermined them to be His own adopted sons through Christ, the motive being simply "the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5), and the purpose in view the glorious manifestation of His kindness and the eternal praise thereof (Ephesians 1:6). This kindness is bestowed upon them "in the Beloved," whose blood is the source of their forgiveness and of their emancipation from slavery to sin (Ephesians 1:7). The riches of God's free favour is further exhibited in the wealth of wisdom and knowledge which He has lavished upon them by letting them into the secret of His will (Ephesians 1:9), the whole process being part of the eternal purpose which He planned in Christ, working out when the fullness of appointed times arrived, viz. the summing up in Him of all things both on the earth and in the heavens (Ephesians 1:9 f.). It is in Him that they, i.e. those who were foreordained according to the purpose of God, who worketh all things according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:11), have been chosen to be the Divine inheritance; to the end that the writer, and those for whom he writes (i.e. those whose hope in Christ was of old standing), might redound to the praise of the Divine glory equally with those (i.e. new converts) to whom he writes; for these latter also, having heard the word of the truth, the glad tidings of their salvation, put their trust in Him and were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise who was Himself the earnest money of a full inheritance hereafter, when the deliverance of God's purchased possession should be complete (Ephesians 1:12-14).

Ephesians 1:3. in the heavenly places: (en tois epouraniois), also Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 6:12, but nowhere else in NT. The phrase suggests the late Jewish doctrine of seven heavens rising one above the other (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2), but the local sense should not here be pressed; it means "the heavenly sphere," "the unseen universe" of spiritual realities.

Ephesians 1:4. even as he chose us: the recurrent references in Ephesians 1:4 ff. to Divine choice and fore-ordination suggest but do not necessitate a Calvinistic interpretation. Calvinism, as a formal doctrine, is foreign to the NT, though here, as elsewhere, reflection upon the wonder of Christian vocation is expressed in terms which—when treated as formal theology—readily gave rise to Calvinism.

Ephesians 1:6. in the Beloved: it seems probable that "the Beloved" had come to be a recognised title of the Messiah (see J. A. Robinson, p. 229).

Ephesians 1:7. redemption through his blood: the phrase is explained by the sacrificial system of Judaism. "The blood is the life" (Leviticus 17:11), and represents the dedication of all life to God. Man, unworthy qua sinful to offer his life to God, offers vicariously an unblemished animal life with which his own life is by sprinkling identified. The death of Christ, taken in connexion with His saying in Mark 10:45, and His claim to inaugurate a New Covenant (Mark 14:24), suggested the application of this circle of ideas to Him and to His work. It was the earliest Christian theology of Atonement. Stripped of metaphor it means that Christ's life of flawless obedience perfected in death is the means whereby all who come to share in it are made one with the life of God.

Ephesians 1:9. the mystery of his will: a keynote of the whole epistle. The "mystery" is the Divine world-plan, purposed before all ages, now at length disclosed in the Christian revelation. The word is to be taken not in its modern sense (=a hidden or unintelligible secret) but as signifying a revealed secret, a mystery disclosed. (An allusion by way of contrast to contemporary Mystery Religions is possible, though Robinson, pp. 234ff., strongly denies this.)

Ephesians 1:10. Read "for working out in the fulness of the times." The genitive is temporal, and the word oikonomia, originally signifying the management of a household, had come to be used of any orderly administration: here the working out of the Divine world-plan.—to sum up: the word anakephalaiousthai seems to be derived from kephalaion (=a sum) rather than from kephalé (=a head). "In the Divine counsels Christ is the sum of all things" (Robinson). In the Eagle Vision of Ezra (2 Esdras 12:25) the three heads of the Eagle (probably the Flavian Emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian) are said to "recapitulate" or "sum up" all the impieties of the Eagle (i.e. Rome, the hostile world-power). Probably there was a received tradition in apocalyptic writings that at the end of the world-history all the evil which is now diffused and isolated, as well as all the good, should be summed up in Antichrist and Christ respectively.

Ephesians 1:11-13. in whom also we . . . in whom ye also: the contrast seems to be between Christians of old standing and neophytes, rather than between Jewish and Gentile believers.

Ephesians 1:13. The reference to "sealing" may possibly suggest an eschatological sacrament; cf. Revelation 7:2 f. Chase (Confirmation in the Apostolic Age, pp. 51ff.) thinks there may be a reference to an early form of "confirmation," possibly by anointing; this is doubtful. The "Holy Spirit of promise" means probably "the Holy Spirit who is Himself a promise" rather than "the promised Holy Spirit"; the gift of the Spirit being regarded as an arrhabn or pledge (an instalment paid as proof of the bona fides of a bargain) which is a guarantee of completeness of blessing hereafter.


Verses 15-23

Ephesians 1:15-23. A Paragraph of Prayer.—The writer, who has been informed (by letter?) of the Christian faith and love of his correspondents, reciprocates their thanksgiving and prayers (Ephesians 1:15 f.); he beseeches God, the glorious Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, to bestow on them the Spirit, giver of wisdom, revealer in the knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17); that the eyes of their hearts may be opened, so that they may know the hope implied in God's calling, the wealth of glory involved in God's inheritance in His people, and the overwhelming greatness of His power towards believers, as displayed in the working of His strong might wrought in Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20): whom God raised from the dead and made assessor of His own throne in the heavenly sphere, supreme over every rule, authority, power, and lordship, and over every existent or nameable being, whether in the present or in the future age (Ephesians 1:20 f.): all things God subjected beneath the feet of Christ, and gave Him as supreme Head to the Church which is His embodiment, the fulfilment of Him who in all things universally is being fulfilled (Ephesians 1:22 f.).

Ephesians 1:15 f. I also, having heard . . . cease not: the form of expression is such as would be used in replying to a letter: though this may be explained as a literary device.—and which: follow mg.

Ephesians 1:16. making . . . prayers: cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:2, Romans 1:9, Philemon 1:4. The evidence of papyri found in Egypt shows that some such phrase in beginning a letter was a recognised usage of the time.

Ephesians 1:17. Beware of taking "spirit" in the modern weakened sense as an attitude of mind: the text means a teaching Spirit, not (as we might say) a "teachable spirit" or a wise disposition. "Revelation" or "apocalypse" is the correlative of "mystery"; the Divine secret needs a Divine unveiling; cf. Ephesians 3:3.

Ephesians 1:21. rule . . . dominion: cf. Colossians 1:16. These were all terms for celestial hierarchies and different angelic orders derived from the language of Jewish apocalypse. Cf. Enoch 61, "And He will call on all the host of the heavens and all the holy ones above, and the host of God, the Cherubim, Seraphim, and Ophanim" (i.e. wheels; cf. Ezekiel 1:15), "and all the angels of principalities, and the Elect One" (i.e. the Messiah) and the other powers on the earth and over the water on that day."—every name that is named: a Hebraism. In Heb. idiom "being called anything implies being that thing." Cf. Isaiah 9:6 and Enoch 48:3, where we read (of the Son of Man), "Before the sun and the signs were created . . . his name was named before the Lord of Spirits" (i.e. he existed before the creation of the sun and stars). So here the meaning will be "every being that exists."—this world . . . that which is to come: the familiar eschatological antithesis. For "world" read "age" (mg.).

Ephesians 1:22 f. the church which is his body: cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:27. The phrase emphasizes: (a) the organic unity of all Christians in Christ; (b) the thought of the Church as the organ whereby the life of the risen Christ now operates, the present embodiment of Christ on earth.—the fulness. . . . filleth: read, "the fulfilment of him that is being fulfilled." The word translated "that filleth" (pleroumenou) is really a passive participle: and the thought is apparently that Christ, as manifested in the Church, awaits His fulfilment in the completion of the Divine purpose.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ephesians 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ephesians-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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