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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Ephesians 1

 

 

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Verse 1-2

Address and Greeting.

The Apostle, in all his Epistles, follows the custom of the times, which named the writer first, then the person or persons addressed, adding a brief greeting. All his designations of himself and of his readers have a distinctive Christian tone, quite as much as the Apostolic salutation. (See further on Romans 1:1-7.) The form here used is the briefest, and is nearly identical with that found in Colossians 1:1-2; the resemblance to the opening verses in 2 Cor., 2 Tim., is also very marked.

Ephesians 1:1. Paul. See General Introduction.

An Apostle. See Romans 1:1.

Of Christ Jesus. The weight, but not the mass, of authority favors this order, which is found in 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1 (according to the best authorities). As an Apostle he belongs to Christ Jesus; it is implied that he derives his authority from Him; that his message is about Christ Jesus is an inference, and not the primary meaning.

Through the will of God. This phrase, occurring also in the address of the three Epistles above named, states the means by which he became an Apostle. ‘It is sufficient to indicate, humbly and in unfading remembrance of his wonderful conversion and calling, that he has received his Apostleship without his own merit or worthiness, through the will and grace of the Most High (Galatians 1:15-16), hence that he had not assumed it for himself or obtained it through the mediation of others’ (Braune). His official position was not only from God, but also through His will (comp. Galatians 1:1). The expression is, therefore, one of humility as well as of dignity. Stier suggests further, in view of the passage which follows (Ephesians 1:3-11): ‘an Apostle and messenger, through the will of God, brings no other message than a glad one, the gospel of redemption unto blessedness.’

To the saints. The term is repeatedly applied to Christians in the New Testament (comp. Romans 1:7). Its primary meaning is that of consecration to God’s service; the thought of personal sanctity is usually implied, and sometimes becomes the prominent one; but in an address like this the term is used in the most general sense, ‘as designating the members of Christ’s visible church, presumed to fulfil the conditions of that membership’ (Alford).

Who are in Ephesus. On the question respecting the words ‘in Ephesus,’ see introduction, § 1. We reject altogether the view which omits any local phrase, and explains ‘who are’ as ‘who are actually such.’ On the city, see Introduction, § 1.

And the faithful, or, ‘believers.’ It is unnecessary to repeat ‘to,’ since this is only a further designation of the same persons. The word translated ‘faithful’ in the New Testament frequently means having faith (full of faith), rather than having fidelity; the latter sense is the classical one. The two ideas of trusting and trustworthy are both found in connection with the Hebrew equivalent.

In Christ Jesus. This qualifies the word ‘faithful’ alone, and not ‘saints’ also. This was the element in which their faith existed. The idea of fellowship seems to be always implied in the phrase, ‘It was not a mere external dependence placed on Him, but it had convinced itself of His power and love, of His sympathy and merits; it not only knew the strength of His arm, it had also penetrated and felt the throbbing tenderness of His heart; it was therefore in Him (Eadie).

Ephesians 1:2. Grace to you. Comp. on Romans 1:7. The E. V. supplies ‘be’ here, as usual; but in these greetings it is not necessary to supply any verb. The second ‘from’ is also unnecessary.


Verse 3

Ephesians 1:3. Blessed. The word here used is applied to God only in the N. T., and with a few exceptions in the LXX. also. The primary signification is that of speaking or promising good; our blessing God is praise and thanksgiving; His blessing us includes doing us good also. Both senses occur in this verse.

Be. The verb is omitted in the original, as is usual in such doxologies. We may understand ‘be’ as a wish, or as an imperative, i.e., a formal pronouncing of blessing. The latter is perhaps preferable.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; or, as some prefer to render this formula, ‘God and the Father,’ etc. Either view is grammatically tenable, and to neither can there be any doctrinal objection (in Ephesians 1:17, we find: ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ’). But we prefer to join ‘of our Lord Jesus Christ’ to both nouns. ‘To be God and to be Father are not ideas which exclude each other, nor do they appear as two, but as a unity. He is here praised who is not only the God or the Incarnate One, but is also the Father of this Lord, of the only begotten, whom he has given; thus is indicated the God-man by whom the blessings of redemption are mediated’ (Braune).

Who blessed us. Active, efficient blessing is here spoken of, as summed up in one past act, that being the force of the tense used. It here ‘refers to the counsels of the Father as graciously completed in the redemption(Ellicott). ‘Us’ means all Christians, as the context plainly shows.

In all (or, ‘every’) spiritual blessing, i.e. every kind of blessing which can be termed ‘spiritual.’ But ‘spiritual’ in the N. T. ‘always implies the working of the Holy Spirit, never bearing merely our modern inaccurate sense of spiritual as opposed to bodily’ (Alford). Comp. on Romans 7:14. The Holy Spirit is the Agent in the bestowal of the ‘blessing,’ and under it we include all the privileges spoken of in what follows.

In the heavenly places. Strictly speaking this defines the preceding phrase, ‘all spiritual blessing.’ It has a local sense, but a broad and comprehensive one; ‘every spiritual blessing which we have received springs from a higher world, is to be sought in a heavenly region, and thence to be obtained’ (Braune). Some refer it to the ‘heaven of grace’ on earth, into which the believer is introduced; while the absence of any noun in the original has allowed many to supply ‘possessions’ instead of ‘places.’ But in all the other instances the local sense is the correct one (Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12); hence we prefer it here.

In Christ. Here, as always, the idea of fellowship is the prominent one; every spiritual blessing we have received, the heavenly places in which they are received, are ours, only through our fellowship with Christ. It seems to quality all that precedes, rather than any one phrase. In this section especially, the words ‘in Christ’ form ‘the centre and heart-beat of the Apostle’s view.’ The thought recurs in varying forms eight times in this section alone. In this verse is suggested, what is afterwards unfolded, that Father, Son, and Spirit are concerned in the one blessing we receive.


Verses 3-14

I. Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3-14 form but one sentence, so heaped up in thought and so involved in construction as to well-nigh baffle all attempts at exact analysis. The passage, as a whole, has a triumphant liturgical tone, the key-note being found in Ephesians 1:3. Probably no one view exhausts the meaning, we therefore give a number of summaries:—

Braune finds in the refrain ‘unto the praise of the glory of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:6), ‘unto the praise of His glory’ (Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14), the key to the divisions: ‘in Ephesians 1:4-6 the first foundation for praise (the election of eternal mercy); in Ephesians 1:7-12 the second (the carrying out of the eternal decree); in Ephesians 1:13-14, the third (the personal appropriation of salvation).’ Stier and Alford find a Trinitarian arrangement, Ephesians 1:3-6 pointing to the Father, Ephesians 1:7-12 to the Son, Ephesians 1:13-14 to the Spirit.

Another outline is: Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3), who in the past chose us in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6), in the present redeems us in Him (Ephesians 1:7-9), and in the future will unite all in Him (Ephesians 1:9-10), both Jews (Ephesians 1:11-12), and Gentiles (Ephesians 1:13), both of whom received the Spirit, the earnest unto full redemption (Ephesians 1:14).


Verses 3-23

I. THE CHURCH CHOSEN IN CHRIST, THE HEAD OF THE BODY.

This chapter is made up of two parts: the first (Ephesians 1:3-14), an ascription of praise for spiritual blessings in Christ; the second (Ephesians 1:15-23), a thanksgiving for the faith and love of the readers, passing into a supplication that soon becomes a glowing description of the exalted Christ, as the Head of the Church, His body. The whole chapter is liturgical in its form, sublime in its thought, the great ideas ever struggling for expression, and giving the language a full tone, rarely found even in the Apostle's writings.


Verse 4

Ephesians 1:4. Even as. The blessing corresponds with the choice. ‘These spiritual blessings are conferred upon us, not merely because God chose us, but they are given in perfect harmony with His eternal purpose’ (Eadie).

He chose, or more fully rendered, ‘chose out for Himself.’ The choosing was for His own glory; it is here conceived of as a single act, and was an act of selection, a choosing out of. No interpretation is grammatical which denies these three points.

Us. The whole invisible Church of Christ, the body of Christ (comp. Ephesians 1:22-23), is undoubtedly meant. This Church is made up of individuals (‘us’) designed, indeed, to form an organic unity, but here regarded as chosen persons. Nothing is said as yet of ‘faith,’ or of any other subjective characteristic; the Apostle’s thought concerns the counsels of God. This election is not, however, an arbitrary or mechanical matter: it is in him, i.e., in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). This is more than ‘on account of Him,’ or, ‘through Him,’ though both ideas are correct. It indicates that those who are chosen are chosen ‘in Christ,’ as the second Adam, the new head and representative of spiritual humanity. There could be no such antecedent choice, except in Him.

Before the foundation of the world. The election preceded creation; comp. 2 Timothy 1:9. This presupposes the eternity of the Son of God, the object of the Father’s love (John 17:5; John 17:24), but not the real individual existence of believers before the creation of the world.

That we should be. The Purposed result of the election is now stated.

Holy and without blame (or, ‘blemish,’ as in chap. Ephesians 5:27). The former marks the positive, the latter the negative side of the moral result.

Before him, i.e., before God. But in what sense? Some have referred it to God’s justifying verdict, but as an ultimate result is here spoken of, and as the Apostle could have plainly expressed that meaning in other ways, the reference to sanctification is preferable. ‘Before Him,’ then means either at the final judgment, or truly, really, in His all-searching eye. ‘If men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy.’ ‘Holiness is the only evidence of election’ (Hodge).

In love. The connection of this phrase has occasioned much discussion. (1.) The E. V. joins it with ‘holy and without blame.’ In that case it explains that the sanctified state consists in love, our love. (2.) It might be joined with ‘chose,’ referring to God’s love; but the words are so separated as to make this connection improbable. (3.) It may be referred to God’s love, and joined with Ephesians 1:5. This is, on the whole, preferable; for a reference to God’s love seems more natural, and (2) is objectionable. Both (1) and (3) are grammatically allowable; if ‘before Him’ refers to justification, then (1) is logically incorrect.


Verse 5

Ephesians 1:5. In love having predestinated us. The tense here used does not imply that the predestination preceded the election; the two may be regarded as synchronous. There is no grammatical objection to the former view, but there seems to be no instance in the N. T. which establishes the priority of predestination. The word predestine (fore-ordain) refers to choosing for a preappointed end; the word translated ‘chose’ (Ephesians 1:4) points to the fact that the choice has been made out of a mass. If ‘in love’ be connected with this verse, it gives special emphasis to the motive of the predestination. These things, at which men cavil, are prompted by love, and will be apprehended only when men respond in love.

Unto adoption. The end of the foreordaining is that we may be placed in the position of sons, enjoy the privileges of sons; comp. Romans 8:15-29. Christ is ‘the first-born,’ the only begotten Son; we are foreordained unto adoption, to become His brethren.

Through Jesus Christ unto himself. ‘Jesus Christ’ is the personal mediator through whom this adoption takes place; the end of it is ‘unto Himself,’ i.e., ‘to lead us into, and unite us to God’ (Ellicott). ‘Himself’ does not refer to Christ. All this constitutes the end of the predestination.

According to the good pleasure of his will. The word ‘good-pleasure’ has two meanings: (1.) good-pleasure, what one pleases to do, because good to him, or (2.) benevolence, what involves good will to others. The former is the sense here, as the context plainly indicates. The freedom of God’s will is here asserted, and for us this thought is an all-important one. If God is not free, then our freedom is impossible. If He is not free, His benevolence is of little value to sinners. On ‘will,’ see Ephesians 1:11.


Verse 6

Ephesians 1:6. Unto the praise of the glory of his grace. This is the refrain of the passage. The election and predestination were not only in accordance with God’s freedom, but also for this end: that those who become sons of God by adoption (and with them all sinless creatures) should praise the Divine glory which is the special characteristic of His grace that makes it worthy of praise. We are to praise Him, not simply for His favor to us, but for that exhibition of grace which exalts us to a higher knowledge of His glory, so that, even in praising Him for what He does for us, we learn to praise Him for what He is. This phrase must not, therefore, be weakened into ‘His glorious grace.’ Comp. the phrase, ‘unto the praise of His glory’ (Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14).

Which he freely bestowed on us. The E. V. is quite faulty here, following an incorrect reading and misinterpreting the verb. This word has two senses: (1.) To graciously bestow; (2.) to endue with grace. The latter sense is objectionable, both here and in Luke 1:28 (the only other N. T. passage where the word occurs). In fact, ‘grace’ is used by Paul of Divine grace, not of the human result, and here the reference is ‘to an act of God once past in Christ, not to an abiding state which He has brought about in us’ (Alford). Hence ‘hath’ is to be omitted. At the same time the thought of the Apostle here turns toward the carrying out of the purpose of redemption.

In the Beloved. ‘We, as adopted children, are indeed loved, but there is another, the Son, the own beloved Son. It was not, therefore, affection craving indulgence, or eager for an object on which to expend itself, that led to our adoption. There was no void in His bosom, the loved one lay in it’ (Eadie). We become the objects of God’s love through His grace, which has in Christ its sphere, and becomes ours through union with Him.


Verse 7

Ephesians 1:7. In whom we are having. In Christ, as the living sphere of redemption, the purpose already set forth (Ephesians 1:4-5) finds its present accomplishment ‘He it is without whose Person and work we were not redeemed’ (Meyer). ‘Are having’ points to the continued possession; it should not be weakened into, ‘there is for us.’

Our redemption, lit,. ‘the redemption,’ but in this connection ‘our’ is the proper rendering. ‘Redemption’ means literally, ransoming from, and is here to be understood of our being ransomed from the punishment our sins deserve (including all the results of sin) by the payment of a ransom price by our Redeemer. What that ransom price is, clearly appears; the redemption is through his blood. The expiation set forth in the types of the Mosaic ritual, is really made through the shedding of His blood. Comp. on Romans 3:25, where ‘in His blood’ occurs in connection with the same thought. There, however, the reference is more to the objective atonement; here to the redemption accomplished by means of it; hence ‘through’ instead of ‘in.’ ‘Not the death of the victim, but its BLOOD was the typical instrument of expiation. I may notice that in Philippians 2:8, where Christ’s obedience, not His atonement, is spoken of, there is no mention of His shedding His blood, only of the act of His death’ (Alford).

The forgiveness of our trespasses. On the word translated ‘forgiveness’ as compared with that meaning ‘pretermission,’ or ‘passing over,’ comp. on Romans 3:25; on the word ‘trespass,’ comp. on Romans 5:15. Ellicott distinguishes the two words translated ‘trespasses’ and ‘sins,’ by taking the former as pointing more ‘to sins on the side of commission, sinful acts; the latter to sins as the result of a state, sinful conditions.’ This ‘forgiveness’ is the essential part of the redemption.

According to the riches of his grace. God’s grace is the ultimate ground of our redemption; that grace has other forms of manifestation, but none greater than that of the atonement through the blood of the Beloved.


Verse 8

Ephesians 1:8. Which he caused to abound toward (lit, ‘into’) us. ‘Which’ is preferable to ‘wherein,’ or, ‘wherewith’; the grace itself was made to flow abundantly to us, in fact into us as the subjects of it

In all wisdom and prudence. This phrase can scarcely be applied to God, for ‘all wisdom’ does not mean the highest wisdom, but every kind of wisdom; and ‘prudence’ is rarely thus applied. The parallel passage (Colossians 1:9) favors the reference to Christians, and this explanation agrees better with the sweep of the thought. Some join the phrase with ‘having made known’ (Ephesians 1:9), but this makes the next clause unnecessarily involved. It is best to join it with the preceding phrase, as indicating the sphere in which the abounding of grace towards us is manifested. ‘All’ is to be joined with both nouns; ‘wisdom’ is the more general term, ‘prudence’ is the resulting intelligence. ‘Wisdom grasps God’s doings, perceives and understands His counsels of grace; prudence is directed to what we have to do, looks at our problem and how to solve it; the former sees the relations ordered by God, the latter regulates our conduct accordingly’ (Braune). But ‘wisdom’ is not purely theoretical, since it is the basis of the more practical ‘prudence.’


Verse 9

Ephesians 1:9. Having made known to us. This explains what precedes. Ellicott: ‘in making known to us’; Alford: ‘in that He made known.’ Hence this takes place at the same time with the causing to abound (Ephesians 1:8).

The mystery of his will. The mystery concerning His will, rather than belonging to His will, or, which is His will. On ‘will,’ see ver. Ephesians 1:8. The word ‘mystery’ (comp. Romans 11:25) in the N. T. is applied to: (1.) ‘such matters of fact as are inaccessible to reason, and can only be known through revelation; (2) such matters as are patent facts, but the process of which cannot be entirely taken in by the reason’ (Tholuck). In this Epistle the term is frequently used, the primary reference being to the one great gospel mystery, the person of Christ in its connection with the body of Christ. But the union of Jews and Gentiles in this one body, as an especial feature of this mystery, is in some instances the most prominent aspect presented; comp. on chap. Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9. Here the wider reference is to be accepted; the redemption in Christ as belonging to the eternal plan of God. We could not know this great fact were it not revealed, and even now it contains much that transcends our reason.

According to his good pleasure. Comp. Ephesians 1:5. This making known was, in all its details, according to His will.

Which he purposed in himself, or, ‘in Him.’ The latter is literally correct, but ‘Himself’ makes the reference to God more obvious to the English reader. ‘Purposed’ means to put before one’s self, not necessarily beforehand, though the whole context shows that the purpose is to be regarded as taking place before the foundation of the world (comp. Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:11). A comma is the only punctuation necessary at the close of the verse.


Verse 10

Ephesians 1:10. Unto; not ‘until,’ nor, ‘in,’ but with a view to, setting forth the end or aim of the purpose (Ephesians 1:9).

The dispensation. The article is wanting in the original, but the idea is made definite by what follows. The word itself is that from which our word ‘economy’ is taken, first meaning ‘stewardship’ (as in Luke 16:2), then applied in this sense to spiritual things, especially to the apostolic office (1 Corinthians 9:17; Colossians 1:25). But here, and in chap. Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:9, the reference is to God’s disposition, ordering of affairs, the notion of stewardship falling into the background.

Of the fulness of the times, or, ‘seasons.’ Comp. Galatians 4:4, where a similar expression occurs. There, however, ‘the time’ is regarded as one period; here, as a succession of ‘seasons,’ which fill up a measure or receptacle. ‘Fulness’ may mean (1.) that which fills; (2.) that which is filled, the state of fulness; or (3.) the act of filling. The last sense is inappropriate here. Either (1.) or (2.) may be accepted with substantially the same result. The reference is to the coming of the Messiah (not to the second advent), as in Galatians, This ‘fulness of the times’ was the characteristic of the ‘dispensation’ (dispensatio propria plenitudini temporum). The main question is whether the phrase, as a whole, refers to the entire gospel dispensation, or to the period of the first advent alone. As the explanatory clause which follows points to what is still future, we accept the wider reference.

To gather up together again (for Himself). This explains the design of the ‘dispensation’ etc. The word used is the equivalent of ‘recapitulate,’ sum up again (comp. Romans 13:9, where the E. V. renders it ‘is briefly comprehended’). Here it has a reflexive sense (for Himself), and further suggests the idea of gathering again what has been sundered. ‘God will gather together again for Himself what He has created for Himself.’ The fathers found here a reference to Christ as the Head, but this is suggested by the sound of the word, rather than by its sense. That idea is introduced later (Ephesians 1:22), and the reference here is to Christ’s atonement rather than to His sovereignty.

All things. This expression must not be limited unnecessarily to persons, or to the redeemed from among men. The expressions used in Romans 8:21, 1 Corinthians 15:28, and elsewhere, show that the redemption in Christ has wider relations which affect physical nature (on the proper limitation, see below).

In the Christ. It seems wise to translate the article, which emphasizes the fact that the Messiah had come.

The things which, etc. ‘Both’ is to be omitted, according to the best authorities. The whole explains ‘all things,’ and the neuter gender suggests an application to things as well as persons. The explanation: ‘the redeemed from among men, some of whom are now in heaven, and others are still on earth,’ restricts the sense too much. The neuter might refer to persons (as in Galatians 3:22), but the context seems to demand a wider application. ‘Heaven and earth have become places of sin (chaps. Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12); indeed, heaven was the first theatre of sin, when a part of the angels fell into sin and from God (1 Timothy 3:6; 1 John 3:8; James 2:19; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6); thence it came to earth (2 Corinthians 11:3), in ever greater dimensions (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). Thus the state originally appointed by God and the development. He wished to be without disturbance, ceased (Romans 8:18-24), so that a renewing of the heavens and of the earth was taken into view (2 Peter 3:13). The centre of this renewal is Christ and His redeeming work (Colossians 1:20), which, however, has its development also, both before His appearance up to “the fulness of the times,” and afterwards up to His second advent, when “the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21), the palingenesia (Matthew 19:28), will be introduced’ (Braune). Hence we may conclude that physical nature and the world of mind, angels and men, will all stand in some new relation to each other and to Christ, their common centre, when this summing up in Him is completed. ‘As the stone dropped into the lake creates there widening and concentric circles, which ultimately reach the farthest shore, so the deed done on Calvary has sent its undulations through the distant spheres and realms of God’s great empire’ (Eadie). Evil spirits and unbelieving men shall then be recognized only as conquered and rejected opponents. ‘The doctrine of restoration, according to which even those who have remained unbelieving, and finally devils, shall yet attain to blessedness, contrary as it is to the whole tenor of the N. T., finds in this passage also no support’ (Meyer). It is not necessary to restrict the former clause to good angels, still less to exclude them altogether.

Even in him. This repetition is for solemn emphasis; without Him, the personal Mediator, this comprehensive re-uniting cannot take place; He is the only sphere in which it can occur.


Verse 11

Ephesians 1:11. In whom ye also. Gentile Christians, not the local church over against Christians in general. The construction of the original is peculiar, and has been variously explained. The simplest view is that ‘ye also’ is the subject of the verb ‘were sealed.’ but the length of the intermediate clause led to the repetition of ‘in whom.’ Others supply ‘are,’ but this introduces ‘a statement singularly frigid and out of harmony with the linked and ever-rising character of the context’ (Ellicott). Others supply ‘hoped’ (E. V., ‘trusted’), but this obliterates the distinction between the two classes. Moreover it is ungrammatical; for ‘before hoped’ is one word in Greek, a part of which cannot be supplied here.

Having heard. The participle may mean: since ye heard, or, after ye heard, probably suggesting both ideas.

The word of truth. The word of the Apostle’s preaching, here defined according to its character and contents. (To explain it as ‘true doctrine’ is incorrect)

The gospel of your salvation. In apposition with ‘the word of truth,’ defining the apostolic preaching, according to the contents it imparts, setting forth the power of saving which God has joined with the gospel (comp. Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18).

In whom, i.e., in Christ, an emphatic resumption of the thought at the beginning of the verse. The clause that follows is not to be united with this.

Having also believed.—‘Also’ must be placed here; ‘in addition to hearing, you believed.’ Here, as before, the thought is either, ‘after you believed,’ or, ‘since you believed,’ suggesting both. ‘In whom’ is not to be joined with ‘believed.’

Ye were sealed. While the participles do not necessarily imply antecedent action, the sequence indicated is: hearing, believing, and receiving the seal of the Spirit. It is not ungrammatical to regard all three as occurring at the same time (on your hearing and believing’). Many insert here a reference to baptism, of which the passage gives no hint. To seal is often for the purpose of authenticating to others, and the calling of the Gentiles was thus attested (Acts 10:47; Acts 11:17), but here the purpose in mind is to give an assurance to the believer himself (comp. Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6). It is altogether unnecessary to seek an allusion to heathen rites or to circumcision.—

With the Spirit of promise, the Holy One. The emphasis of the original is indicated by this rendering. The sealing is in Christ (‘in whom’); the Spirit is itself the seal (hence ‘with,’ not ‘by’), that God affixes to those who are in fellowship with Christ, having heard His word, and become believers. But this ‘Spirit’ is characterized as being ‘of promise,’ lit., ‘the promise.’ It came in accordance with the promise, made both in the O. T. and by the Lord Himself (see references). The phrase, ‘the Holy’ is added, because Paul wishes to give emphatic and solemn prominence to the essential attribute of the Spirit, and thus speaks with a corresponding pathos (so Meyer). The operations of the Holy Spirit are not referred to, and to explain it otherwise than of the personal Holy Spirit is to ignore all New Testament usage.


Verse 12

Ephesians 1:12. That we should be. The final aim of the predestination to become God’s heritage is that the subjects (‘we’) should be unto the praise of his glory; comp. Ephesians 1:6. ‘Grace’ is not named here, showing that ‘glory’ is the prominent idea. As persons are more directly connected with the phrase, they are not only to praise, but themselves to be a praise. The main question, however, is respecting the word, ‘we.’ As it is further explained in the next clause which is contrasted with ‘ye ‘in Ephesians 1:13, most commentators refer it to Jewish Christians, and ‘ye’ to Gentile Christians. ‘Another view refers ‘we’ to Christians in general, and ‘ye’ to the Ephesians; but the former is much to be preferred.

We who have before hoped in the Christ. ‘Before’ indicates unmistakably the Jewish Christians, who had the promise before the coming of the Messiah, and hoped accordingly. It does not mean before others, or before the second advent. The form used points to a past action still continued; hence ‘had’ is not strictly correct. The E. V. has unfortunately rendered the verb ‘hope’ in a majority of the instances in the N. T., by ‘trust,’ and has confused the sense still more by supplying ‘trusted’ in Ephesians 1:13.


Verse 14

Ephesians 1:14. Which is an earnest, i.e., the Holy Spirit ‘Earnest’ is a part of the purchase-money paid as a pledge of full payment afterwards. The present gift of the Spirit is such a pledge of fuller blessing; comp. 2 Corinthians 1:22.

Of our inheritance. ‘Believers obtain the certainty that they are heirs and have an inheritance in eternity, not through an assurance from without, but chiefly through the reality of the possession, not at once in its entire extent, but in an earnest’ (Braune).

Unto the redemption, etc. ‘Unto,’ rather than ‘until’; the preposition being the same as that used in the next clause. Since the clauses are so similar, they should be regarded as parallel, and both accordingly be joined with the main verb (‘were sealed’). The former of the two sets forth God’s purpose in the sealing, as that purpose respects man; the latter the ultimate purpose as respects God. But the former, as a matter of fact, includes what God does for man, the latter what return man makes to God. ‘Redemption’ is here used in a wider sense than in Ephesians 1:7 (comp. chap. Ephesians 4:30 and Romans 8:23), pointing to the full final deliverance of soul and body from sin and death, and also to the glorifying which is the positive side of the redemption.

Of his purchased possession. The word is an unusual one, but much discussion had led to general agreement as to its meaning. The verb from which it is derived meant, at first, to cause to remain; then the reflexive sense, to cause to remain for one’s self, became to acquire, to gain. The noun thus means ‘an acquired possession,’ and is here equivalent to the Hebrew idea of a people belonging to God, acquired by Him. Many other meanings have been suggested, but all of them are decidedly objectionable.

Unto the praise of his glory. See Ephesians 1:12. ‘All issues to “the praise of His glory,” His grace having now done its work (Eadie).’ This section began with an ascription of ‘blessing,’ it ends with this refrain which makes ‘praise’ the ultimate end of the entire scheme of redemption. Our free ascription of praise is for what He has done and for what He is. ‘The beginning, middle, and end of the Christian life, or its ground, path, and goal, is the praise and adoration of God’ (Braune).


Verse 15

Ephesians 1:15. For this cause. ‘Wherefore’ is the usual rendering of another Greek word. Because of the grace for which the Apostle has made his ascription of praise (Ephesians 1:3-14), but especially on account of what is stated in Ephesians 1:13-14, where the Gentile readers are addressed.

I also; as well as you, implying their cooperation in such prayerful activity (Meyer).

Having heard. When and where is not indicated, nor can anything be inferred as to his acquaintance or non-acquaintance with the readers. ‘On hearing,’ whenever it was.

Of the faith which is among you. The peculiar Greek expression which the Apostle here uses may be thus paraphrased. The faith is there among them; ‘your faith in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:4), marks the faith as the possession of the individuals. ‘Faith’ does not, however, mean ‘that which is believed,’ but ‘believing.’

In the Lord Jesus. This is the sphere and object of the faith: ‘Christ centred faith’ (Ellicott).

And the love which ye have. The full form of the Greek may be thus paraphrased. But some ancient authorities omit the words ‘the love.’ Those who accept the briefer reading explain thus: the faith which is among you in the Lord Jesus and which ye show unto all saints. We prefer to retain the words, because they are not only well supported, but the omission can be readily accounted for. The original suggests, first, love in general, and then this characteristic manifestation of it: unto all the saints, i.e., Christians (comp. chap. Ephesians 1:1). Brotherly love is a characteristic of Christianity (Bengel). ‘We should not overlook the emphasis resting on the word “all,” permitting no distinction as respects condition, rank, possessions, or internal endowment, either mental or spiritual’ (Braune). But the community of faith precedes and produces the community of feeling. The order is always ‘faith and love.’


Verses 15-23

2. Thanksgiving and Supplication for the Church as the Body of Christ, who is the Head.

The Apostle naturally passes from praise to thanksgiving, on behalf of the Church, which as naturally becomes supplication. The thanksgiving is for their faith and love, and is uttered in his prayers (Ephesians 1:15-16). The petition, ever joined with it, is that God would make them ‘know the glory of their calling and inheritance as well as of His power (Ephesians 1:17-19), which He has shown and will show in the Redemption through Christ, the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23).’ Braune. The closing verses present the fundamental thought of the Epistle. Stier, here as elsewhere, finds a Trinitarian division, which does not, however, seem very distinctly marked. The Apostle rather prays that they may know more and more of the great things God has wrought in His redeeming work, the crowning fact of which is ‘Christ, the Head over all things as Head of the Church, His body.’


Verse 16

Ephesians 1:16. Cease not to give thanks for you. Eadie: ‘As one giving thanks I cease not.’ In the O. T. confession precedes thanksgiving, but the Apostle almost invariably begins his Epistles with thanksgiving, which befits the privileged condition of Christians. ‘For you,’ lit, ‘over you,’ with the idea of protecting them.

Making mention of you. The best authorities omit ‘of you,’ which, however, is the necessary sense, though some would supply in thought ‘your faith and love.’ This specifies when and how he gives thanks.

In my prayers. When at my prayers and in my prayers; it being impossible to separate the temporal and local senses of the preposition used. ‘No thanksgiving without petition, so long as perfection and completion are not yet there’ (Stier).


Verse 17

Ephesians 1:17. That. The word here used means, as a rule,’ in order that,’ not ‘so that,’ except as the latter is involved in the former. But, as in later Greek it became equivalent to simple ‘that’, we find in N. T. usage a sense which may have prepared the way for the transition. After verbs of asking, etc., it frequently introduces the purpose and purport of the request or prayer. (See my note, Lange, Ephesians, p. 56.) This sense is to be accepted here: it is the Apostle’s design as well as hope that what he asks should be granted.

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Himself calls the Father, His God (see references); comp. Ephesians 1:3. ‘The appellation is here solemnly and most appropriately given as leading on to what is about to be said in Ephesians 1:20 ff., of God’s exaltation of Christ, to be Head over all things to His church’ (Alford). The fear of Arianism led the Fathers to refer this clause exclusively to Christ’s human nature, and the next to His Divine nature, and has also suggested various forced interpretations, such as ‘God sent Him, He bore witness of God, and returned to God.’

The Father of glory. (For similar expressions, see references.) This is not to be explained as ‘glorious Father,’ nor is ‘Father’ to be taken as ‘author,’ ‘source.’ The word ‘Father,’ was suggested by the mention of Christ; ‘of glory’ (true and eternal glory), is that characteristic of God which is most apt in this passage; ‘for it is to be expected from the God of Christ and Father of glory, that He will do what the cause of Christ demands, and serves to reveal His own glory’ (Meyer). Hence it is not necessary to refer it to Christ’s divine nature, or to the glorified humanity of Christ

May give unto you. The word used in the original suggests something hoped for, but dependent on the will of another.

The spirit (lit, ‘a spirit’) of wisdom and revelation. The absence of the article does not render the phrase indefinite, nor indicate a reference to the human spirit ‘Spirit’ means the Holy Spirit, as usual, but as indwelling in the believer. (See Excursus on Romans 7) The Apostle desires for his readers, as the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, ‘wisdom and revelation.’ The former is a general term, referring to their illuminated state, the latter a special one, suggesting ‘the single glances afforded us, into the truths of Christianity, into the will of God in special circumstances and situations of life, into the human heart, into the course of time, into eternal life’ (Braune). Special miraculous gifts are not meant. The explanation: ‘God give you a wise heart, open to His revelation’ (Rueckert), is utterly incorrect. This petition is a warrant for our expecting spiritual illumination in the study of God’s revelation; but it does not justify our looking for new revelations beyond or contrary to the simple teachings of God’s word, or confounding inspiration and illumination in the interest of mystical self-conceit.

In the full knowledge of him. In the margin the E. V. reads: ‘acknowledgment,’ and so translates in the text of Colossians 2:2. But ‘full knowledge’ is the best rendering; the word being a compound one, the simple form of which means ‘knowledge.’ It points to ‘complete knowledge,’ rather than to ‘increasing knowledge,’ ‘Of Him’ refers to God, not to Christ, while the entire phrase qualifies the whole preceding clause, indicating the sphere in which they would obtain this ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation.’ ‘In’ is not = ‘into,’ or ‘together with;’ nor should the phrase be joined with the next verse.


Verse 18

Ephesians 1:18. Having the eyes of your heart enlightened. The correct reading substitutes ‘heart’ for ‘understanding.’ The construction of the original is peculiar, and has been variously explained. The only question which affects the English form is whether we have here a further explanation of the gift prayed for in Ephesians 1:17, or a result of it. The latter is decidedly preferable, and may be paraphrased thus: ‘so that you are enlightened as respects the eyes of your heart.’ The last phrase is unusual; the figure denoting the inward intelligence of that portion of our immaterial nature (the ‘soul’), of which the ‘heart’ is the imaginary seat (so Ellicott). Hence it includes the affections, which we designate as ‘heart,’ but does not exclude ‘mind.’ The result of the gift of the ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ is intellectual as well as moral.

That ye may know. ‘To the end that ye may know.’ This is the purpose of the enligntenment, not another petition. Three objects of knowledge are then specified.

What is the hope of his calling; comp. chap. Ephesians 4:14. ‘What’ is probably used without special reference to either quality or quantity. ‘Hope’ is not the thing hoped for, except as that is involved in the nature of the hope itself. This ‘hope’ results from God’s calling us, the call is the efficient cause of the hope. ‘Notice here, too, the three fundamental elements of subjective Christianity, faith, love, and hope (Ephesians 1:15; Ephesians 1:18); in faith and love the illumination through the Holy Ghost should ever bring more and more to our knowledge the glory of our hope’ (Meyer).

What the riches of the glory of his inheritance. This is the second object of knowledge. ‘And’ is omitted by the best authorities. This full phrase must not be diluted into ‘the riches of the glorious inheritance,’ or ‘the glorious riches of His inheritance.’ The ‘inheritance’ is not God’s inheriting the saints, but what they inherit from Him, namely, eternal life, heirship in the Christ; this God gives, hence ‘His.’ But this has ‘a glory’ peculiar to itself, the fulness of which the Apostle calls ‘riches.’ This ‘glory’ will be fully manifest hereafter, but is perceptible even here.

In the saints, i.e., Christians as a whole, ‘His inheritance in, whose example, fulness, and embodying is in the saints’ (Alford). Others prefer to explain: ‘what the riches,’ etc., ‘is among the saints.’ But this represents Paul as praying that they might know what great things are already among Christians.


Verse 19

Ephesians 1:19. And what the exceeding greatness of his power, etc. The third object of knowledge is God’s power, but as manifested, both in present redemption and future glorification, not in the latter alone, which, however, is included: ‘There is thus a kind of climax,—the hope which the calling awakens,—the exhaustless and inexpressible glory (Chrysostom) of that inheritance to which hope is directed—the limitless power that shall bestow it’ (Ellicott).

To usward who believe. This phrase is to be joined with ‘His power,’ setting forth the personal objects toward and upon whom the power is exercised. ‘Who believe,’ is almost equivalent to ‘who are believers.’ The present tense favors the view that the whole clause includes a reference to present redemption.

According to the working of the might of his strength. This clause, which is expanded in Ephesians 1:20-21, qualifies the whole preceding part of the verse, setting forth the mode of the operation of ‘His power to usward,’ etc. Others join it with ‘who believe,’ as indicating the cause of our faith; but ‘who believe’ is too subordinate a thought to call for this amplification. Others connect it with ‘may know,’ which is too remote. The greatness of the power which bestows the ‘glory’ and fulfils the ‘hope’ is in accordance with a manifestation already made of God’s strength. ‘Strength’ is God’s inherent power; ‘might’ is the putting forth of that power; ‘working’ is its actual efficiency. The accumulation of terms is designed to exalt our conception of the greatness of God’s power, as put forth in the Resurrection and exaltation of Christ.


Verse 20

Ephesians 1:20. Which he wrought, or, ‘hath wrought.’ Good authorities support the latter reading, which presents the matter as an accomplished fact with permanent results. ‘Which’ necessarily refers to ‘working’ (Ephesians 1:19).

In Christ; both as the first-fruits and as the Head of the Church.

In raising him from the dead. We retain the participial form of the original, since ‘when He raised’ fails to give the exact force. It is a shallow exposition which regards ‘Christ’s resurrection as merely a pledge of our bodily resurrection, or as a mere figure representing our spiritual resurrection—not as involving the resurrection of the church in both senses’ (Alford).

And making him sit. The participle is sustained by the best authorities, and ‘Him should also be inserted (not in italics, as E. V.). The usual reading has a finite verb here, thus disconnecting this clause from the preceding. The better reading binds them together as directing the same manifestation of power.

At his right hand in the heavenly places. These local designations are not to be spiritualized or made indefinite. Christ’s present bodily existence is a reality; to explain this away is to adopt the most capricious method of interpretation. In some proper sense He is enthroned with the Father, and that throne is ‘in the heavenly places.’ ‘His right hand’ is the place of honor, of power, and of happiness, possessed and communicated (Eadie).


Verse 21

Ephesians 1:21. Far above. Simply local (Ellicott: ‘over above’); the ideas of dominion and eminence are, however, suggested by the context. The verse is to be connected with ‘making him sit,’ as an explanation of the phrase, ‘at his right hand, etc.’

All principality, etc. These four terms occur frequently in the N. T. in different combinations. They usually refer to angelic powers, either good (chap. Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10) or bad (chap. Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:24), or both, as seems to be the case in Romans 8:38. A reference to earthly power is out of the question here. Whether good or bad angels are meant, depends upon the context. The former, certainly, seem to be included, and the latter are not necessarily excluded, but as the context contains no reference to Christ’s victory over evil spirits, it is, perhaps, safest to limit the terms to good angels. Of the classification we know little or nothing. Certainly, no modern ‘spirits’ have helped us to such knowledge. The next clause, however, suggests a descending order, from Christ, the exalted One, through the successive ranks of angels, to every name that is named. This includes more than persons, or titles of honor; ‘everything that can bear a name,’ the most comprehensive phrase possible: ‘A name can be uttered, whatever it may be, Christ is above it, more exalted than that which the uttered name expresses’ (Meyer).

Not only in this world, or, ‘age,’ etc. Comp. Matthew 12:32, where a similar expression occurs, joined with ‘not,’ meaning ‘never.’ The point of separation between the two ‘ages,’ according to the Jewish conception, was the coming of the Messiah; according to the Apostle, it was the second coming. Whatever ethical ideas may be added, the idea of duration inheres in the word. Some such ethical notion appears here; hence the phrase means more than simply ‘now and hereafter’ and cannot be explained as ‘terrestrial and superterrestrial,’ etc.


Verse 22

Ephesians 1:22. And he subjected all things. Here the construction changes, although logically this verse continues the description of the ‘working of the might of His strength’ (Ephesians 1:19). The unlimited Sovereignty of the exalted Christ is now set forth: ‘all things’ sums up what has been detailed in Ephesians 1:21. The language seems to have been suggested by Psalms 8:6. It may be regarded as a reminiscence, i.e., a form of words adopted by one familiar with the Psalms, but without any direct design of explaining the meaning of the original passage. (In Ephesians 1:20 there seems to be such a reminiscence of Psalms 110:1.) Or, as seems more probable, it is a citation due ‘to a direct reference under the guidance of the Spirit to a passage in the O. T., which in its primary application to man involves a secondary and more profound application to Christ. In the grant of terrestrial sovereignty the Psalmist saw and felt the antitypical mystery of man’s future exaltation in Christ’ (Ellicott). Comp. the citations of the same passage in 1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6-8.

And gave him to be head over all things to the church, or, ‘gave Him as Head over all things to the Church.’ In the original the emphasis rests on ‘Him,’ Him they exalted, etc. The passage plainly says that Christ is given to the Church, and the next verse as plainly indicates that He is Head of the Church. What, then, is His relation to ‘all things?’ Evidently that of Head also. Any other view is grammatically inadmissible. There is, however, another interpretation which amounts to the same as this: ‘gave Him, the Head over all things (to be the Head) to the Church.’ The common version seems to imply this view of the construction. The other view does not obscure the great fact that Christ is Head of the Church; the Apostle gathers up all that he has said of Christ’s sovereignty, in order to emphasize the gift of such a One, Head over all things to the Church, of which He is necessarily (and in a peculiar sense) the Head.

The Greek word rendered ‘Church’ means ‘an assembly called out.’ It had a technical sense in Attic Greek, but was used to translate the Hebrew word Kahal, ‘congregation.’ In the N. T. it is most frequently applied to a local assembly of believers, usually with some organization. But in Matthew 16:18, and throughout this Epistle, as well as in Colossians 1:24, and probably a few other passages, it refers to the entire body of real Christians throughout the world, and in every age. The word itself suggests two ideas: that the members are ‘called out,’ and that they form one assembly. The definition of the next verse justifies the saying, Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia (wherever Christ is, there is the Church). Of the external form of this Church this Epistle says very little, nor is it anywhere hinted that it was to be a temporal power. Moreover, while outward form is necessary to prevent anarchy, it does not appear that uniformity is essential. Visible unity is the end, and will come from within rather than from without. Probably the truest unity is to be reached through the freest divergencies in externals. The essential matter is that Christ be recognized as Sovereign, as the only Head of the Church, and that vital union with Him be maintained, not only as a doctrine, but as a fact in daily experience. The preservation of the Church throughout eighteen centuries is the accumulating proof that Christ is Head over all things to that Church.


Verse 23

Ephesians 1:23. Which. ‘Which indeed,’ or, ‘by which I mean;’ explaining the word ‘church.’

Is his body. The thought occurs repeatedly in Paul’s writings; see references. The relation of Christians to Christ is that of vital union, akin to, yet in reality and intimacy exceeding, that existing between the parts of any living organism, such as a vine and its branches, the head and its members. This union, called ‘mystical,’ is above and beyond any representative union, or intellectual and ethical union. This is the reality, of which all other vital organic relations are but designed parables and illustrations. (The true fellowship of Christians with each other rests on this fundamental fact.)

The fulness of him, etc. This clause, which defines further the word ‘church,’ has occasioned voluminous discussion. The word ‘fulness’ was a favorite one among the ancient Guostics, but in itself need not occasion great difficulty. Of the three meanings, given under Ephesians 1:10, we accept the simple passive sense, marked (2), ‘that which is filled’ (so Fritzsche, Delvette, Olshausen, Stier, Meyer, Alford, Eadie, Ellicott, Braune). The purely active sense, ‘the filling up’ is altogether inappropriate, and the other sense, ‘that by which anything is filled,’ the ‘complement,’ though quite usual in the New Testament, is here open to two objections: (1.) The thought is strange; how can Christ be filled, or ‘complemented,’ by the church, when He fills all in all. (2.) This interpretation compels us to take ‘who filleth’ in the passive sense, ‘who is filled,’ and this is quite objectionable. We therefore explain: ‘The Church is that which is filled by Him,’ etc.

Who filleth. This is certainly not passive. It is taken by some as active, but is more properly reflexive (so in form). The sense may be: of Him who fills ‘from Himself,’ or, ‘through Himself,’ or most probably, ‘for Himself.’ The present tense serves to mark this as a process now going on. The phrase is rightly applied to Christ by most modern commentators. To refer it to God seems to disturb the parallelism and to mar the logical accord of the conclusion.

All in all. Explanations: (1.) ‘All things with all things,’ the preposition ‘in’ being taken as instrumental, denoting ‘the thing with, or by, or in which as an element the filling takes place’ (Alford). This is not open to any serious objection and gives a very appropriate sense. ‘The Church is the veritable mystical Body of Christ, yea the recipient of the plenitudes of Him who filleth all things, whether in heaven or in earth, with all the things, elements and entities, of which they are composed’ (Ellicott). (2.) The second ‘all’ is taken as masculine (the Greek form does not decide the question): ‘All things in all persons.’ This preserves the strict sense of ‘in,’ but ‘all things’ occurs so frequently in the context that the masculine seems improbable here. This view presents ‘His filling efficiency in persons, in heavenly spirits and human souls, of which also His relation as Head of the Church obliges us to think’ (Braune). (3.) Others limit ‘all’ to the members of the Body of Christ, and then explain ‘in all’ as referring to all parts, places, faculties, etc. This is entirely too limited. A mass of incorrect interpretations of the clause might be collected, but the views of recent commentators seem to be converging toward substantial agreement. The wider reference well expands Ephesians 1:22 : ‘The Head of the Church is at the same time Lord of the universe. While He fills the Church fully with those blessings which have been won for it and are adapted to it, He also fills the universe with all such gifts as are appropriate to its welfare—gifts which it is now His exalted prerogative to bestow’ (Eadie). It is knowledge of what God did to this Head of the Church and what that pledges to us, that the Apostle asks for his readers. Not to know such truth is to be spiritually blind; to ignore it is to be unspeakably ‘narrow.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Ephesians 1:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/ephesians-1.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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