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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Ephesians 1

 

 

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Verse 1-2

Ephesians 1:1-2. Paul, an apostle by the will of God — Not by any merit of my own; to the saints — Or holy persons, as τοις αγιοις properly signifies; who are at Ephesus — And in all the adjacent places: for this epistle was not directed to the Ephesians only, but likewise to all the other churches of Asia; and to the faithful in Christ Jesus — Or the believers, as the word πιστος is rendered Acts 10:45; 2 Corinthians 6:15; and 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 4:12. There seems to be no reason to suppose that the apostle gave the Christians at Ephesus this title on account of their being remarkably faithful to Christ, in relying on him alone for salvation, without that attachment to the Mosaic law, which was found in some other churches, and particularly among the Galatians. For we find he uses the same title when addressing the Colossians, (Colossians 1:2,) whom yet he reproves on this very account, Ephesians 2:16. Grace be to you, &c. — See on Romans 1:7.


Verses 3-6

Ephesians 1:3-6. Blessed be God, who hath blessed us — God’s blessing us is his bestowing spiritual and heavenly blessings upon us. Our blessing God is the paying him our solemn and grateful acknowledgments, both on account of his own essential blessedness, and of the blessings which he bestows on us; with all spiritual blessings — The spiritual blessings here spoken of are such as are necessary to the perfection and happiness of our spirits; namely, the light of the gospel, the influences of the Spirit of God, the pardon of sin, adoption into God’s family, the sanctification of our nature, and eternal life. These blessings are here opposed to the earthly blessings which were promised to the natural descendants of Abraham, the ancient church of God, which consisted in the possession of Canaan, in victory over their enemies, fruitful seasons, &c, as described Deuteronomy 28. To these, and such like blessings, Abraham’s seed, by faith, were entitled by the promise, In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. In heavenly places — Or rather, In heavenly things, as εν τοις επουρανιοις, it seems, ought to be here translated. Certainly, we must enjoy spiritual blessings in heavenly things, before we can enjoy them in heavenly places; namely, blessings which are heavenly in their nature, original, and tendency, and shall be completed in heaven; far different from the external privileges of the Jews, and the earthly blessings they expected from the Messiah. According as he hath chosen us in him — Both Jews and Gentiles, whom he foreknew as believing in Christ, 1 Peter 1:2. That he speaks of such, and of such only, is evident from Ephesians 1:12-14, where see the notes. Indeed, none but true believers in Christ, none but those whose faith in him works by love, are ever termed, in the New Testament, God’s chosen, or elect. For the election spoken of in the New Testament is not the election of individuals, out of the mass of mankind, to repent, believe, and obey, passing by the rest; but it is the election of such as are already possessed of faith, love, and a new nature, to be the people and children of God; which election it behooves them to make sure, by aspiring after a larger measure of these, and of all other graces and virtues, and by enduring to the end, 2 Peter 1:10. Before the foundation of the world — Or, before the world began. This, as Macknight observes, “being said of the Ephesian brethren in general, it cannot be an election of the whole of them as individuals” [unconditionally] “to eternal life;” but must be that election, which, before the foundation of the world, God made of true believers, of all nations, to be his children and people, and to enjoy the blessings promised to such. That we should be holy — Dedicated to God, employed for him, and transformed into his image; and without blame — As to our whole spirit and conduct; before him — Or in his sight, who searches the heart, and observes all our ways. As the election here spoken of is an election of believers to be holy, all such ought continually to keep in mind this end of their election, that they may press on toward it more and more. In love — To God, his people, and all mankind, the source of all true holiness; Having predestinated, or fore-appointed, us — Who do now, or shall hereafter, believe in him with our heart unto righteousness; unto the adoption of children — For those who receive Christ, namely, in all his offices and characters, or who believe aright in him, enjoy the dignity of being his children and heirs, and joint heirs with Christ. See on John 1:12; Galatians 3:26. According to the good pleasure of his will — According to his free, fixed, and unalterable purpose to confer these blessings on all those who believe in Christ, and those only. Of the word προοριζω, here, and frequently elsewhere, rendered to predestinate, see the notes on Romans 8:29-30. To the praise of the glory of his grace — His glorious, unmerited, and free love, without any desert on our part; wherein he hath made us accepted — Greek, εχαριτωσεν, he hath taken us into favour, namely, his peculiar favour; in the Beloved — In Christ, his beloved Son, through whom, though in ourselves we are so unworthy of them, we receive these inestimable blessings.


Verse 7-8

Ephesians 1:7-8. In, or by, whom we have redemption — By price and by power, are bought and delivered from the guilt and dominion of sin, the tyranny of Satan, and the final displeasure and wrath of God. Through his blood — Shed for these purposes; or through what he hath done and suffered; having undertaken the great and awful work of making an atonement for us by the sacrifice of himself, by which we obtain, what is an introduction to all the other blessings here mentioned, the forgiveness of sins — For, being pardoned, God’s wrath is removed from us; we are taken into his favour; adopted into his family; born of his Spirit; love him who hath thus first loved us; and, through this love, become holy, and without blame before him. And by these blessings in heavenly things, we are qualified to receive blessings in heavenly places; according to the riches of his grace — According to the abundant overflowings of his free, undeserved mercy and favour, to such sinful and guilty creatures; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom — Manifested by God in the whole scheme of our salvation; and prudence — Which he hath wrought in us, that we may know and do all his acceptable and perfect will.


Verse 9-10

Ephesians 1:9-10. Having made known to us — By his Word and Spirit; the mystery of his will — The gracious scheme of salvation by faith, the appointment of which depended on his sovereign will alone; termed a mystery, because it was but darkly revealed under the law, is now totally hid from unbelievers, and has heights and depths in it which surpass all the knowledge even of true believers. “The whole doctrine of the gospel, taken complexly, is called the wisdom of God in a mystery, 1 Corinthians 2:7; not because any part of it is unintelligible, but for the reasons mentioned in the note on that verse.” “The same appellation is given to particular discoveries made in the gospel. For example, the salvation of the Gentiles through faith, without obedience to the law of Moses, is called a mystery. Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25. So likewise is the great discovery, that such of the saints as are alive on the earth at the coming of Christ, shall not die, but be changed, 1 Corinthians 15:51; and 2 Thessalonians 2:7, we have the mystery of iniquity; and Revelation 1:20, the mystery of the seven stars; and Revelation 10:7, the mystery of God; and Revelation 17:5; Revelation 17:7, mystery, Babylon, the woman, the beast, and the false prophet. To this latter group, the appellation of mystery is given with singular propriety. For as the initiated [into the heathen mysteries] were instructed by having certain mystic shows set before them, the visions in the Revelation of the seven stars, and of the woman, and the beast, and the false prophet, representing the future state of the church, are all very aptly termed mysteries.” That in the dispensation of the fulness of times — When that time was fully come, which he, in his wise appointment and distribution of things, had judged most suitable and eligible; or in this last administration of his fullest grace, in which all the former dispensations terminated, which took place at the time most proper for it. “The word οικονομια, here rendered dispensation, signifies the plan which the master of a family, or his steward, has established for the management of the family. Also it signifies a plan formed for the management of any sort of business. In this passage it signifies the plan which God had formed for accomplishing the salvation of believers.” — Macknight. He might gather together in one — Greek, ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι, he might recapitulate, or unite again under one head; all things in Christ — All persons, whether angels or men, whether living or dead, with all things that are connected with or concern them; both in heaven and on earth — This is considered by some as a Jewish phrase, to express the whole world; and Locke thinks it may be equivalent to Jews and Gentiles, which is the meaning adopted also by Macknight, who says, “According to this interpretation, the gathering of all things under Christ, means both the forming of believing Jews and Gentiles into one catholic church, and the bringing of them both into the heavenly country through the mediation of Christ.” Beza, by things in heaven, understands the saints in heaven, who died before Christ came into the world, and who are not to be made perfect till the resurrection. But the interpretation adopted by Whitby, Chandler, Doddridge, Wesley, and many others, seems more probable, namely, that by things in heaven, both in this passage and Colossians 1:20, the angelical hosts are to be understood; and by things on earth, believers of all nations, who, with the angels, shall at length be joined in one great society, or church, for the purpose of worshipping God through all eternity, agreeably to Hebrews 12:22. “Both angels and men were at first in sweet and harmonious subjection to the Son of God, the great Creator of both; but man having broken himself off from this society, the Son of man, by his humiliation and sufferings, recovers all who believe in him, and in his human nature presides over the kingdom to which, in the world of glory, they and his angels belong. This interpretation presents so noble a view, that no other will bear a comparison.” — Doddridge.


Verse 11-12

Ephesians 1:11-12. In whom also we — Believing Jews; have obtained an inheritance — Namely, that of the promises made to the children of Abraham and of God, even the blessings of grace and of glory, the privileges belonging to the true members of the church militant and triumphant. Being predestinated — To it when we became true believers, and as long as we continue such, see on Ephesians 1:5; according to the purpose of him — Of God; who worketh all things — As he formed and governs all things; after the counsel of his own will — The unalterable decree, He that believeth shall be saved: which is not an arbitrary will, but a will flowing from the rectitude of his nature; otherwise what security would there be that it would be his will to keep his word even with the elect? The apostle seems to have added this clause with a view to convince the believing Jews that God would bestow on them, and on the believing Gentiles, the inheritance of heaven through faith, whether their unbelieving brethren were pleased or displeased therewith. That we — Believing Jews; should be to the praise of his glory — Should give men occasion to praise God for his goodness and truth; who first trusted — Or hoped, as προηλπικοτας signifies; in Christ — That is, believed in him, and hoped for eternal salvation from him, before the Gentiles did. And this was the case, not only in Judea, but in most places where the apostles preached; some of the Jews generally believing before the Gentiles. Here is another branch of the true gospel predestination: he that believes is not only elected to eternal salvation if he endure to the end, but is fore-appointed of God to walk in holiness and righteousness, to the praise of his glory.


Verse 13-14

Ephesians 1:13-14. In whom ye, Gentiles, also trusted — Believed and hoped for eternal life; after ye heard the word of truth — The word which reveals and attests most important truth, the faithful saying, (1 Timothy 1:15,) that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Messiah, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners; the gospel of your salvation — Which brings the good tidings of salvation to you as well as others: or, which God has made the means of your salvation; in whom after ye believed — Or rather, as πιστευσαντες signifies, having believed; ye were sealed — Probably immediately after believing; with that Holy Spirit of promise — Holy both in his nature and in his operations, and promised to all true believers, to all the children of God. Of the seal and earnest of this Spirit, see the note on 2 Corinthians 1:22, where the apostles are said to have been sealed by the Spirit, and to have the earnest thereof in their hearts. As applied to them, the expressions undoubtedly signified their having received the extraordinary gifts, as well as the sanctifying graces of the Spirit. But here being applied to all the Gentile believers, but few of whom certainly were endowed with these extraordinary gifts, the words can only mean those ordinary influences of the Spirit, whereby they were assured of their adoption and regeneration, were stamped with the image of God, and thereby constituted heirs of the heavenly inheritance, and prepared for the enjoyment of it. This sealing of the Spirit produces, in every man that possesses it, a new nature, whereby he is marked, or declared to be, the son of God; a mark which, as Macknight observes, is to him a stronger evidence of his title to eternal life, than if he possessed the miraculous gifts. See on Matthew 7:22; 1 Corinthians 13:2. How earnest then ought we to be in our endeavours to obtain this important blessing! See also Ephesians 4:30, where believers are said to be sealed with the Holy Spirit to the day of redemption. When this sealing of the Spirit is enjoyed in the most perfect manner, it seems to imply, 1st, A full impression of the image of God on a man’s soul; 2d, A full assurance of his receiving all the promises, whether relating to time or eternity. Which is the earnest

Both a pledge and a foretaste; of our inheritance, in heaven, until the redemption of the purchased possession — Till the church, which he has purchased with his own blood, shall be fully delivered from all sin and sorrow, and advanced to everlasting glory. As the redemption here spoken of includes the redemption of the bodies of Christ’s purchased people from death, by the resurrection, (Romans 8:23,) the earnest of the Spirit, which is to remain in the church, that is, in the hearts of its true members, till that glorious event is accomplished, must be principally those ordinary influences of the Spirit, which produce in believers that holiness which is necessary to fit them for heaven, and that happiness which is an anticipation thereof.


Verses 15-17

Ephesians 1:15-17. Wherefore, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus — That is, of your perseverance and increase therein. For the apostle’s manner of speaking does not imply that he received by report an account of their first believing in the Lord Jesus, and therefore that he wrote this epistle to them before he had been at Ephesus in person, or was personally acquainted with them. He wrote in the same terms to the Thessalonians, who were his converts, (1 Thessalonians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:6,) and to his convert Philemon, Ephesians 1:4-5. Therefore, as his saying that he heard of the faith and love of the Thessalonians and of Philemon, does not mean that he was ignorant of these things till they were reported to him, but only that he had heard of their persevering in the true faith of the gospel, and in their love to the saints; so the faith of the Ephesians, which he says he had heard of, was not their first faith, or their conversion to Christianity, but their continued and increasing faith, evidencing itself by the fruit here spoken of. Love unto all the saints — Namely, whether circumcised or uncircumcised. For, by praising the Ephesians for their love to all the saints, the apostle seems to intimate that they were free from that narrow, bigoted spirit, which prevailed in some other churches, where difference in opinion about the necessity of circumcision had interrupted love. I cease not — In all my solemn addresses to God; to give thanks for you — On account of your perseverance in the true faith of the gospel, and in your love to all Christ’s disciples; making mention of you in my prayers — So he did of all the churches, Colossians 1:9. That the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory — Of which he is eternally and immutably possessed; from whom all glory proceeds, and to whom it returns; and whose glory shines in the face of Christ his beloved Son; or, as the expression might have been rendered, the glorious Father; may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation — This Spirit, termed the Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13,) they had already received, in a great measure, for he had sealed them, as is there signified, and was an earnest of their inheritance in their hearts; but the apostle here prays that the same Spirit might be still more largely communicated to them, revealing more fully the deep things of God, and rendering them still more wise in all matters that concerned their own salvation, and the salvation of others. In the knowledge of him — Of Christ, of his person and offices, of his wonderful process in accomplishing the work of man’s redemption; of his humiliation and exaltation, his grace and glory, which he termed, (Philippians 3:8,) the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, for whom he had willingly suffered the loss of all things, and accounted them despicable, in comparison of this knowledge of him. Some commentators understand the clause as signifying the acknowledgment of him, namely, by professing faith in him and his gospel, whatever persecution such a profession might expose them to.


Verses 18-21

Ephesians 1:18-21. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened — That is, I pray that God would do this for you by the discoveries of his gospel, and the operation of his grace. Observe, reader, it is by the eyes of the understanding alone that we discern the things of God; and in order hereto these eyes must first be opened, and then enlightened, by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, spoken of in the former verse. That ye may know what is the hope of his calling — That ye may know, experimentally and delightfully, what are the blessings which God, by his word and Spirit, has called you to hope for. For hope seems to be put here chiefly for the objects of hope, as it is likewise Colossians 1:5; Titus 2:13. The apostle, however, may also include the grounds of this hope; with which, in order to their further establishment, the apostle wished them to be more fully acquainted. And what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in his saints — How great the blessings of his grace are, conferred on his saints here, and what an immense treasure of blessedness and glory he hath provided for them hereafter. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who cordially believe — Both in raising our souls from the death of sin, and preserving them in spiritual life; influencing our hearts in such a manner as effectually to conquer all our prejudices against Christianity, and against true religion in every form, and so as to make us new creatures in Christ Jesus; according to the working of his mighty power — Greek, κατα την ενεργειαν του κρατους της ισχους αυτου, expressions, the strong emphasis and admirable force of which, as Bishop Pearson has observed, are scarcely to be paralleled in any author, and are superior to what our language can reach. Doddridge renders them, according to the energy of the power of his might, a translation which, however, falls very short of the original. See also Blackwall’s Sacred Classics, vol. 1. p. 307. Which he wrought in Christ — By the same almighty power whereby he raised Christ from the dead, for no less would suffice; and set him at his own right hand — That is, he hath exalted him in his human nature, as a recompense for his sufferings, to the quiet, everlasting possession of all possible blessedness, majesty, and glory. Far above all principality and power, and might and dominion — That is, God hath invested him with uncontrollable authority over all demons in hell, and angels in heaven, and all the princes and potentates on earth; and every name that is named — Name is here, by a usual figure, put for the person who possesses the authority signified by that name. We know the king is above all, though we cannot name all the officers of his court: so we know that Christ is above all, though we are not able to name all his subjects; not only in this world, but also in that which is to come — The invisible world, in which the potentates mentioned in the former part of the verse rule, is called the world to come, not because it does not yet exist, but because it is to come to us, not being yet visible. We may observe here, that of the four different names given to good angels in this verse, the two first αρχαι, principalities, and εξουσιαι, powers, are given to evil angels, (Ephesians 6:12,) and to men, Luke 12:11. From this we learn, that there are different orders and degrees of government and subordination among good and bad angels in the invisible world, as among men in the visible world. It is observed by Chandler, that αρχη, the first word, signifies empire of the largest extent, being used by Greek writers to denote the empire of Alexander, after he had conquered the East, and the empire of the Romans; and that κυριοτης, the last word in the verse, signifies the lowest degree of power, power of the smallest extent. So that although we do not know precisely what kind or degree of power is marked by these different names, when applied to good and bad angels, yet we perceive the meaning in general to be, that to our Lord, in his human nature, are subjected the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest orders of beings in the universe; having power, whether among angels or men. According to this view of Christ’s dominion, he is placed above every created nature, however excellent it may be. See Macknight, and Colossians 1:16.


Verse 22-23

Ephesians 1:22-23. And hath put — Greek, υπεταξεν, hath subjected; all things under his feet — This is said in allusion to Psalms 110:1, Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. The psalm is a prophecy, not only of Christ’s exaltation to universal dominion in the human nature, (1 Corinthians 15:27,) but also of the entire subjection of all his enemies, 1 Corinthians 15:25. For in ancient times conquerors put their feet on the necks of their enemies in token of their subjection, Joshua 10:23-24. And gave him to be head over all things to the church — As it is here declared that Christ is raised to universal dominion for the sake of his church, that is, for the noble purpose of erecting and establishing it, and uniting the angels who are in heaven, and all the good men, who have lived and are to live on earth, in one harmonious society, that they may worship and serve God together, and be happy in one another’s society to all eternity, it was necessary for accomplishing this grand purpose, that the evil angels should be subjected to him; and even that the material fabric of the world, with every thing it contains, should be under his direction, that he might order all the events befalling his people, in such a manner as to promote their holiness, and prepare them for heaven. Add to this, he is in such a sense made head over all things to his church, as to cause even its enemies, however undesignedly by them and unwillingly, to serve its interests; and all events, whether apparently prosperous or adverse, and all persons and things, to work together for the good of its members. To these he is a head, not merely of government, but likewise of guidance, life, and influence, as is implied in the next clause. Which is his body — The church is called the body of Christ, to signify that the true and living members thereof are united to, and animated by him; that they are under his direction, and the objects of his care, and that they are united to one another in love, after the manner of the members of the human body, which are governed by the head, and united to one another by various joints, ligaments, nerves, arteries, veins, and other vessels of communication and intercourse. The fulness of him that filleth all in all — This expression may mean that his church, that is, the spiritual part of it, is completed, or completely filled by him, namely, with all sorts of gifts and graces. So Locke understands it. Thus believers are said to receive out of Christ’s fulness, grace for, or upon grace. Macknight, however, takes the clause in a different sense, observing, that by calling the church το πληρωμα, the fulness of Christ, the apostle intimates, that he who is universal Lord would want a principal part of his subjects, if the church among men on earth were not united and subjected to him as its head. Who filleth all in all — That is, who filleth all his members with all their spiritual gifts and graces, according to the place and office in his body which he hath assigned them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 1:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ephesians-1.html. 1857.

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