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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Ephesians 2

 

 

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Verse 1-2

Ephesians 2:1-2. And you, &c. — In the nineteenth and twentieth verses of the preceding chapter, the apostle had spoken of God’s working in the believers at Ephesus, in order to their conversion, and resurrection from spiritual death to spiritual life, by the same almighty power whereby he raised Christ from the dead. On the mention of this he runs on, in the fulness of his heart, into a flow of thought concerning the glory of Christ’s exaltation, in the three following verses. He here resumes the thread of his discourse. You hath he quickened — Or, (as these words are not in the original,) if we connect this verse with the last clause of the preceding chapter, we may read, you hath he filled, namely, with his gifts and graces, and thereby hath made you alive to himself; who were dead — Not only diseased, but dead; absolutely devoid of all spiritual life, and as incapable of quickening yourselves, as persons literally dead are of restoring their bodies to life. In this sense Locke paraphrases the words: “Ye were so entirely under the power of sin, that ye had no more power, nor hope, nor ability, to get out of it, than men dead and buried have to get out of their graves.” The truth is, unawakened, impenitent, and unbelieving sinners, are dead in three respects; 1st, They are under condemnation, on account of their past depravity and various transgressions, to the second death, or to future wrath and punishment, like criminals under sentence of death for their crimes. 2d, They are destitute of all union with God, and in a state of separation from him, and alienation from his life, chap. Ephesians 4:18; Colossians 1:21. 3d, They are carnally minded; that is, their thoughts and affections are set upon visible and temporal things, which is spiritual death, (Romans 8:6,) implying deadness or aversion to spiritual and divine things. In trespasses and sins — Sins seem to be spoken chiefly of the Gentiles who knew not God; trespasses of the Jews, who had his law, and yet regarded it not. Or the expressions may be used indiscriminately, without any such distinction being intended; for all trespasses are sins, and all sins are trespasses, properly speaking. Wherein in time past ye walkedπεριεπατησατε, ye walked about, or walked continually. For, as Grotius observes, the word significat consuetudinem, implies custom, or habit. According to the course of this world κατα τον αιωνα, according to the age, or the common usage of the age in which you lived, and to those corrupt principles and practices which prevailed around you. The word above mentioned, translated course, properly means along series of times, wherein one corrupt age follows another. The prince of the power of the air — “That wicked spirit, who commands the legions of fallen angels, that by divine permission range in the air, and fly from place to place, in pursuit of their pernicious purpose of corrupting and destroying mankind.” So Dr. Doddridge, who observes, “This refers to a Jewish tradition, that the air is inhabited by evil spirits, a notion which the apostle seems to approve.” Macknight’s interpretation of the passage is nearly the same, as follows: “Power, being here put for those who exercise power, (as it is likewise chap. Ephesians 1:21, and Colossians 2:10,) signifies those powerful evil spirits, whose confinement [mentioned by Jude, Ephesians 2:6] is not of such a nature as to hinder them from going to and fro on the earth. And therefore, being irreconcilable enemies of God and goodness, they use the liberty granted to them in opposing God, and in ruining men by their temptations, 1 Peter 5:8. And that they may do this the more effectually, they have ranged themselves under the direction of one chief, here called their prince; but in other passages Satan, and the devil. Perhaps also he is called their prince, because he instigated them to rebel against God, and was their leader in that rebellion. See 1 John 5:19.” To these quotations we may add, with Bengelius, “A power this the effect of which all may perceive, though all do not understand the cause of it; a power unspeakably penetrating and widely diffused, but yet, as to its baleful influences, beneath the orb of believers.” The spirit that now worketh ενεργουντος, worketh inwardly with energy. So he did, and so he doth work in all ages; in the children of disobedience — In all that disbelieve and disobey the gospel.


Verse 3

Ephesians 2:3. Among whom also we — Jews, as well as you Gentiles; had our conversation — That is, our course of life; in times past — At least in some degree, whatever our education or religious profession might have been. Here the apostle speaks in the name of the generality of the converted Jews, as his changing the expression from ye Ephesians to we, plainly declares; including himself and all other Christians, whose former character and state he affirms to have been the same with respect to sin and misery, with the character and state of the children of disobedience: and it is so professedly the design of the beginning of his epistle to the Romans, to prove that the Jews had not, in point of justification, any advantage above the Gentiles, (Romans 3:9,) that it is surprising any men of learning and knowledge should contend for the contrary. In the lusts of our flesh — To the base appetites of which we were enslaved, so as to forget the true dignity and happiness of rational and immortal spirits: fulfilling the desires of the flesh — Yielding to, and suffering ourselves to be governed by those corrupt appetites, inclinations, and passions, which had their seat in our fallen body, or in our evil nature; and of the mind — The earthly and devilish mind, that is, the desires, lusts, and passions, which were inherent in our still more corrupted souls. Observe, reader, the desires or lusts of the flesh, lead men to gluttony, drunkenness, fornication, adultery, and other gross, brutal sins: and the inclinations or desires of the mind, or imaginations, (as διανοιων may be rendered,) prompt them to ambition, revenge, covetousness, and whatever other earthly and diabolical wickedness can have place in the fallen spirit of man. And were by nature — That is, in our natural state, or by reason of our natural inclination to all sorts of evil, and this even from our birth; children of wrath — Having the wrath of God abiding on us; even as others — As well as the Gentiles. This expression, by nature, occurs also Galatians 4:8; Romans 2:14; and thrice in chap. 11. But in none of those places does it signify by custom, or practice, or customary practice, as some affirm. Nor can it mean so here. For this would make the apostle guilty of gross tautology, their customary sinning having been expressed already in the former part of the verse. But all these passages agree in expressing what belongs to the nature of the persons spoken of.


Verses 4-6

Ephesians 2:4-6. But God, who is rich in mercy — That is, in compassion for us, amidst our sins and miseries, and in his free, gratuitous goodness and readiness to pardon the guilty, and save the lost: for his great love — Of benevolence and bounty; wherewith he loved us — When there was nothing in us but sin and misery to move him to do it. Love in God was the cause why he resolved to show mercy to certain descriptions of persons, namely, to such as should obey the gospel call to repentance, faith, and new obedience. Love is a desire to communicate good to us, considered as creatures; but mercy respects us as fallen into sin and misery; even when we Jews and Gentiles, and all men; were dead in sins — See on Ephesians 2:1. Hath he quickened us — Brought us into spiritual life, by begetting in us repentance unto life, and living faith, and in consequence thereof by justifying us, or reversing the sentence of condemnation to eternal death under which we lay, taking us also into his favour, and uniting us to himself, by giving us his quickening and renewing Spirit, in consequence of which our affections are set on things above, and we become spiritually minded, which is life and peace. Together with Christ — In conformity to his resurrection from the dead, and by virtue of our relation to him and union with him. By grace ye are saved — By God’s mere mercy, or undeserved goodness, which is the original source and moving cause of our salvation; and by the enlightening, quickening, and renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, the efficient cause of it. The apostle speaks indifferently either in the first or second person, the Jews and Gentiles being in the same circumstances both by nature and by grace. This doctrine lays the axe to the very root of spiritual pride, and glorying in ourselves. Therefore St. Paul, foreseeing the backwardness of mankind to receive it, yet knowing the absolute necessity of its being received, again asserts the very same truth, (Ephesians 2:8,) in the very same words. And hath raised us up together — Both Jews and Gentiles, already in spirit, having not only rained our souls from spiritual death to spiritual life, but having given us assurance of the resurrection of our bodies, and begotten us again, as his children and his heirs, to a lively hope of a heavenly inheritance, and enabled us to set our affections on the felicity and glory implied therein: and made us sit together in heavenly places in and through Christ Jesus — Our head and representative, who has already been admitted into heaven as our forerunner, to take possession of these glorious mansions for us. For by means of that relation between him and us, which divine grace hath established, we may look upon his resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God, as the certain pledge and security of ours; and regarding him under the character of a public person, who is thus raised and exalted in our name, we may be said to share in those felicities and dignities which are conferred on him.


Verses 7-9

Ephesians 2:7-9. That in the ages to come — As if he had said, His great design in doing all this for us is, that in all succeeding ages, under the dispensation of the gospel, he might show — Might demonstrate and display, (as the word ενδειξηται implies,) for the instruction and encouragement of others; the exceeding riches of his grace — Manifested both to Jews and Gentiles; in his kindness — His benignity and bounty; toward us — In pardoning, adopting, regenerating, and finally saving us; through Christ Jesus — For we have received the whole blessing by him, and are partakers of it as connected with him, whom God hath appointed our head and Saviour, and taught us to regard as our great representative. For (to repeat the important truth before asserted) by grace are ye saved through faith — Grace, as signifying the free mercy, or unmerited goodness of God, without any respect to human worthiness, confers the glorious gift of salvation; and grace, in the other sense of the expression, namely, the influence of the Spirit, prepares us for the reception of the blessed gift, and conveys it to us; and faith in the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer and Saviour, our Governor and Judge, and in the truths and promises of his holy gospel, with an empty hand, and without any pretence to personal desert; faith, productive of unfeigned love and obedience, receives the heavenly blessing. And that not of yourselves — This refers to the whole preceding clause, and means, 1st, Your salvation is not of yourselves, is not of your own power, nor of your own merit; strictly speaking, you can neither save yourselves, nor deserve that God should save you; your salvation, in all its branches, present and eternal, is from God, to whom alone it belongs to enlighten, justify, sanctify, and glorify you, and it is from him as a free, undeserved gift. Just Song of Solomon , 2 d, Your faith, whereby you receive salvation, is not of yourselves, not of your own power, nor of your own merit; you can neither believe of yourselves, without supernatural light from the word and Spirit of truth, wisdom, and revelation; and divine grace inclining and enabling you to apply to and rely on Christ for salvation, and on the truths and promises of God through him; nor can you, by works done while you are yourselves in unbelief and unrenewed, deserve that God should give you faith. But your faith, as well as your salvation, is the gift of God; is of his operation, Colossians 2:12; from his light shining into your hearts, 2 Corinthians 4:6; and is from him as a free gift, asked indeed of him, and obtained from him, in and by prayer, but utterly unmerited on your part. “God, by the gracious influence of his Spirit, fixes our attention to the great objects of faith, subdues our prejudices against it, awakens holy affections in our souls, and, on the whole, enables us to believe, and to persevere in believing, till we receive the great end of our faith in the complete salvation of our souls.” — Doddridge. Not of works — Neither this faith, nor this salvation, is merited by, or is owing to, any works you ever performed, will or can perform, whether in obedience to the law of Moses, ceremonial or moral, or any other law whatever; much less is it merited by, or owing to, any works done previous to your conversion. Lest any man should boast — As if he had, by his own works of righteousness, procured salvation, and so should ascribe the glory of it to himself, rather than to God.


Verse 10

Ephesians 2:10. For we are his workmanship — As if he had said, And it appears that it is not by any works or ability of our own that we are saved, or possess the faith whereby salvation is received, because all the ability we have in spiritual things is from God, and is the consequence of his creating us anew; for as all acts of acceptable obedience must proceed from faith, and this faith is wrought in our hearts by the gracious influence of the Divine Spirit, it is most certain that we must acknowledge ourselves to be his workmanship, so far as there is any thing in us agreeable to the nature and will of God; being created in and through Christ Jesus unto good works — In order that we may have inclination and power both to perform them, and to delight in so doing; and may give ourselves up to this, and be continually engaged therein, as far as we have ability and opportunity. This creation of believers through Christ Jesus unto good works, Dr. Taylor, in his Key to the Romans, understands of the formation of believers into one body or church, under the government of Christ, because in the Christian Church believers enjoy the greatest advantages for performing good works, and because this formation of the church is termed (Ephesians 2:15) a creation of Jews and Gentiles into one new man under Christ. The same account he gives of the making men alive, mentioned Ephesians 2:5. “Others, however, with more reason,” says Dr. Macknight, “think that a person’s enjoying, in the Christian Church, great advantages for becoming alive and for doing good works, is not the whole” (and is it any part?) “of what the apostle means” by these expressions, but that they “denote the operation of the Holy Spirit in making men alive, and enabling them to do good works by means of the advantages that they enjoy.” Which God hath before ordained — Or appointed in his eternal counsels, and in the declarations of his word; it being his will and pleasure, that they who have believed on him through his Son, and are thereby made new creatures, should be careful to maintain good works, Titus 3:8. But the apostle’s expression, οις προητοιμασεν ο θεος, rather signifies, which God hath before prepared; that is, hath prepared the occasions of good works, and the means and opportunities of doing them. Or, as some render the clause, for which God hath prepared us, namely, by the knowledge of the gospel, and the influences of his Spirit: that we should walk in them — Should live in the constant performance of them, though not be justified by them. In other words, He hath purified the fountain, that the streams may be pure; hath made the tree good, that the fruit may be good; hath made us new creatures, that we may live new lives; one grand and important end certainly of our regeneration. So that we must still ascribe the whole glory of all the good that is in us, or is done by us, to God.


Verse 11-12

Ephesians 2:11-12. Wherefore — To increase your sense of God’s goodness in saving you, and of the obligation he hath thereby laid on you to do good works; remember that ye being in time past Gentiles — Ignorant, vicious, and idolatrous, neither circumcised in body nor in spirit; who were accordingly called Uncircumcision — By way of reproach, by that which is called the Circumcision — By those who call themselves the circumcised, and think this a proof that they are the people of God; and who, indeed, have that outward circumcision in the flesh made by hands — By this description of circumcision, the apostle puts his readers in mind of the inward circumcision, the circumcision of the heart, made by the Spirit of God, of which the outward circumcision was only an emblem, (Romans 2:29,) and intimated that the Jews had no reason to boast of the outward circumcision, unless it was accompanied with the circumcision of the heart. That ye were without Christ — Having no faith in him, or knowledge of him, and so were destitute of all those blessings which he bestows on his believing and obedient people; being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel — Both as to their temporal privileges and spiritual blessings; and strangers from the covenants of promise — Namely, that made with Abraham, and that made with the Israelites at Sinai, which promised and prefigured Christ’s coming to procure and bestow those blessings. As the promises contained in these covenants centred in the great promise of the Messiah, and of salvation through him, he therefore speaks of them in the singular number, as only one promise. Having no hope — No sure hope, either of present pardon or future felicity, because they had no promise whereon to build their hope. That the heathens had among them the doctrine of a future state,” says Dr. Doddridge, “and that it was popularly taught, and generally believed by the common people, must, I think, appear incontestable, to any who are at all acquainted with antiquity; but it is as apparent that they reasoned very weakly upon the subject, and that they had no well-grounded hope of future happiness, and that they were but very little impressed with it, so that they had no Deity to which they prayed for eternal life, as the fathers often demonstrate. And by far the greater part of their most learned philosophers either expressly denied, in private lectures to their pupils, the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, or taught principles quite inconsistent with it.” And without God — Being wholly ignorant of the true God, and so in effect atheists. Such in truth are, more or less, all men, in all ages, till they know God by the teaching of his own Spirit: in the world — The wide, vain world, wherein ye wander up and down, unholy and unhappy. “Both the Christians and heathens,” as Dr. Whitby observes, “called each other atheists, though both worshipped some deity, real or imaginary; because each supposed the other to reject that which was the true object of adoration. But it is not to be conceived that the apostle would have given to the heathens the character of atheists, if the worship of the one living and true God had really prevailed among them to that degree which some Christian divines have incautiously maintained that it did. The truth of the matter seems to have been, that, though several of them speak of their Jupiter in terms proper to the one self-existent and eternal Deity only, yet they taught and believed other things of him quite inconsistent with such perfections. And those who had some knowledge of the one Supreme Eternal Cause, yet practically disregarded him: and, however they might reconcile it with the dictates of their consciences, worshipped inferior deities; and many of them such as were represented under the most scandalous characters, to the neglect of the Supreme Being, and the destruction of all true religion.”


Verse 13-14

Ephesians 2:13-14. But now in Christ Jesus — In consequence of your union with him, and your interest in him by faith, ye, who formerly were far off — From God and his people, (as in Ephesians 2:12,) are made nigh to both, by the blood of Christ — Whereby he hath atoned for your sins, and opened a free and honourable way for your approaching God, and becoming entitled to all the privileges of his people. For he is our peace — Not only as he purchased it, and confers it on such as truly believe in him, but as he is the very bond and centre of the union of believers with God and each other; who hath made both — Believing Jews and Gentiles, one church, one flock of Christ. This union of the Jews and the Gentiles, so as to make them one people, was foretold by our Lord, when he said, (John 10:16,) Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: are not Jews; and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold: Greek, μια ποιμνη, one flock, though in different folds, and one shepherd. The apostle here describes, 1st, The conjunction of the Gentiles with Israel, Ephesians 2:14-15; and, 2d, The conjunction of both with God, Ephesians 2:16-18. And hath broken down the middle wall of partition — The ceremonial law, which the apostle here compares to that wall in the Jewish temple, which separated the court of Israel from the court of the Gentiles. For many of the rites of that law could be performed nowhere but in the temple of Jerusalem. But Christ, having now taken away that law, and prescribed, under the gospel, a spiritual form of worship, which may be performed everywhere, he hath thereby provided for joining Jews and Gentiles in one church, and making them all one people in God: a union which could not have taken place if the Mosaic law had been continued. For the worship of God, as to various branches of it, being confined by that law to the temple at Jerusalem, the greatest part of the Gentiles could certainly not have come thither to worship with the Jews.


Verses 15-18

Ephesians 2:15-18. Having abolished in his flesh — By the sufferings and death endured therein; the cause of enmity between the Jews and Gentiles, even the law of ceremonial commandments, contained in ordinances — Consisting in many institutions and appointments concerning the outward worship of God; such as those of circumcision, sacrifices, clean and unclean meats, washings, and holy days; which, being founded in the mere pleasure of God, might be abolished when he saw fit. These ordinances Jesus abolished, that he might make in himself — That is, by uniting them to himself as their head; of twain — Of Jews and Gentiles, who were at such a distance before; one new man — One mystical body, one church, renewed by the Holy Ghost, and uniting in one new way of gospel worship: so making peace — Between the two kinds of people, and even laying a foundation for the most sincere mutual love and friendship: And, or moreover, to complete this blessed work of making peace, that he might reconcile both, as thus united in one body, and animated by one spirit, not merely to one another, but unto God, by his death on the cross — By which he expiated the guilt of sin, and rendered God reconcileable, and ready to pardon the penitent that should believe in Jesus; and by which he procured for mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, the Holy Spirit to work repentance and faith in them, and destroy that carnal mind, which is enmity against God, (Romans 8:7,) and all those sinful passions which are connected therewith, and which render men odious in his sight, and hostile to one another. And came — After his resurrection; and preached peace — By his authorized ambassadors, (to whom he had committed the important trust of treating with sinners in his name and stead, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20,) to you Gentiles, which were afar off — At the utmost distance from God; and to them that were nigh — To the Jews, who were comparatively nigh, being his visible church. For through him — Through his mediation, his sacrifice and intercession; we both — Believing Jews and Gentiles; have access — Have liberty of approach; by one Spirit — Inspiring us with faith, hope, and love, and rendering us sincere, spiritual, fervent, and constant, in our prayers, praises, and all acts of worship and service: unto the Father — That is, unto God as a Father reconciled in Christ, and beholding us with paternal eyes of love, complacency, and delight.


Verses 19-22

Ephesians 2:19-22. Now, therefore — Being thus reconciled; ye — Believing Gentiles; are no more strangers and foreigners — If it be necessary to make any distinction as to the signification of these two words, in the former, ( ζενοι,) the apostle may refer to persons of a different country; and in the latter, ( παροικοι,) to those of a different family. The following clause evidently leads to this sense. But fellow-citizens with the saints — The Church of God is here spoken of under the emblem of a city, as it is also Isaiah 26:1-2; Isaiah 60:1, &c.; Isaiah 62:12; Philippians 3:20, (where the original expression signifies, our citizenship in heaven,) as also Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:10-27, and in many other places of the Old and New Testaments. Of this city, the believers at Ephesus are here represented as genuine citizens, entitled to all the glorious immunities and privileges of it; and of the household of God — Members of his family, his servants, yea, his sons and daughters. As if he had said, God not only stands related to you as a king to his people, or the chief magistrate of a city to the citizens; but as a father to his children, who are under his peculiar protection and care, have the nearest access to him, and most intimate communion with him. “Perhaps,” says Doddridge, “this latter clause, οικειοι του θεου, domestics of God, may have some relation to that peculiar nearness to God in which the Jewish priests were, and refer to that great intimacy of unrestrained converse with God, to which we, as Christians, are admitted; in which respect our privileges seem to resemble, not only those of the people praying in the common court of Israel, but those of the priests, worshipping in the house itself. Nay, it is elsewhere added, by a figure, which seems beautifully to rise even on this, that we have confidence to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” And are built — Here the apostle alludes to a building, particularly to the temple at Jerusalem, to which he compares God’s visible church, as is evident from the subsequent verse; and he represents the believers at Ephesus as constituent parts of this building; upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets — the fundamental doctrines declared by them, on which the faith and hope of all true believers are built. God laid the foundation of his church by them. Thus the city of the living God, the new Jerusalem, which is the church of God, in its most perfect state in the world to come, is said (Revelation 21:14) to be built on the foundation of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The Jewish prophets are also said, not improperly, to be the foundation of God’s church, because they bore testimony, though some of them in an obscure manner, to most of the doctrines of the gospel. Perhaps, however, as the prophets are here mentioned after the apostles, the Christian prophets may be meant; to whom, by a peculiar inspiration, the true meaning of the writings of Moses and the prophets was made known. Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone — Namely, of the foundation, holding the several parts of the building together, and supporting the chief weight of the edifice. It is true, this stone may be considered as placed either at the top or at the bottom of the building; but the latter seems here to be meant; because, in the following verse, the building is said to be fifty joined together by this stone, and to grow into a holy temple for the Lord. Elsewhere, Christ is termed the foundation itself, 1 Corinthians 3:11, where see the note. The Lord Jesus, however, is also the head of the corner — The top corner-stone; for so he terms himself Matthew 21:42. In — Or on; whom all the building — The whole fabric of the universal church, with all its members, and the doctrines which they believe, the precepts which they obey, and the promises which they embrace, and in which they confide; yea, with all the blessings enjoyed in time, and expected in eternity; fitly framed together — Harmoniously joined in its several parts, and compacted so as to add beauty, strength, and unity to the whole; groweth — Riseth up like a large pile of living materials, namely, by the continual accession of new converts, and the advancing graces of those already converted; unto a holy temple in the Lord — Fitly dedicated to the Lord Christ, as being raised and supported by him; a temple in which God displays his presence, yea, dwells, and is worshipped in spirit and in truth. What is the temple of Diana of the Ephesians, whom ye formerly worshipped, compared to this? See note on 1 Peter 2:4-5. In whom ye also — At Ephesus, believing in Christ, and placing your confidence in him as the foundation and high- priest of this temple; are builded together — With other believers, whether Jews or Gentiles; for a habitation of God — That God may dwell among you, as a holy and harmonious society, and in you as individuals, your bodies and souls being also his temples, (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16,) through the Spirit — Of truth and grace, of power, purity, and consolation; of holiness and happiness, which God hath promised to all that believe in his Son, John 7:38-39; Acts 2:39.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ephesians-2.html. 1857.

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Monday, January 20th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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