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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Ephesians 2

 

 

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Introduction

Verse 1

Ephesians 2:1. You also, or, ‘and you.’ The latter simply joins this to what precedes; the former gives emphasis to ‘you.’ There is, however, no contrast with other Christians, but an application of what precedes to their case, probably with a suggestion of the resemblance to the Resurrection of Christ (comp. Ephesians 2:5-6). On the construction, see above. ‘You’ is logically resumed in the more extended word ‘us’ of Ephesians 2:4. The objections to supplying ‘hath he quickened’ are, that it takes but a part of the compound verb in Ephesians 2:5, that ‘he’ must refer to God, whereas chap. Ephesians 1:23 is spoken of Christ. In any case ‘hath’ is unnecessary.

Being dead. The connection shows that a continued state in the past is meant, ‘while you were dead.’ ‘Who were dead’ is inexact. Spiritual, not physical, death is referred to. Meyer’s explanation, that they were exposed to eternal death, seems farfetched.

By (or, ‘on account of’) your trespasses and sins. The best authorities insert ‘your,’ which belongs to both nouns. The former word refers to special transgressions, viewed as misdeeds, faults, failures (and is usually rendered ‘trespass’); the latter, in the singular, is used of sin as a power or principle, or in an abstract sense, but, in the plural, as here, embraces all sins, in thought, word, or deed. There is no preposition in the original, and the case used may express instrumentality. In the parallel passage (Colossians 2:13) ‘in’ occurs, emphasizing the state or sphere; here the cause of death is spoken of, the reference to the state or condition being found in Ephesians 2:2. ‘By,’ or ‘on account of,’ seem preferable to ‘through.’ ‘We might render, were the expression good in serious writing, “dead of your trespasses,” as we say “he lies dead of cholera”’ (Alford).


Verses 1-10

1. Redemption in Christ as Deliverance from Death through a New Creation.

The Apostle applies to his readers the great truths set forth in chap. 1, having in mind ‘the mighty working of the Father, through the Resurrection and Ascension of the Son, done once for all, and yet taking place in every one called into the Church’ (Stier). The figure of death and quickening is therefore very appropriate. In Ephesians 2:1-3 the Apostle depicts the previous state of death in the case of his readers (and of all men in fact). Ephesians 2:4-6 speak of the Deliverer and deliverance. Ephesians 2:7 states the purpose for which the deliverance was wrought, while Ephesians 2:8-10 revert to the means by which it was accomplished.

The structure of the section, however, presents grammatical difficulties, which are met in the E. V. by supplying ‘hath he quickened ’ in Ephesians 2:1. The explanation of the difficulty is simple: The Apostle, having in mind the thought ‘God quickened you also,’ begins with ‘you also,’ and after dwelling at some length on their previous condition, introduces in Ephesians 2:4 the subject (‘God’) with a new sentence, and in Ephesians 2:5 completes the expression of the thought. Such a construction was far more allowable in Greek than it is in our language. This view is preferable to those which connect ‘you’ in Ephesians 2:1 with ‘filleth’ (chap. Ephesians 1:23), or with some other word in the previous chapter.


Verse 2

Ephesians 2:2. Wherein ye once walked. In the sphere of these sins they habitually moved; ‘in this sleep of death there is a strange somnambulism’ (Eadie).

According to the course of this world. The word ‘course’ is that usually rendered ‘age’ or ‘world,’ and in various forms employed to express the idea of ‘eternal.’ A notion of duration is always found in it, although it sometimes, as here, suggests also the idea of a movement, course, development. The ethical character of this ‘course’ is indicated, not by the word itself, but by the phrase ‘of this world’ which has its usual meaning here, namely, the world of humanity estranged from God. The two terms are not synonymous. The implied contrast is with a future new world.

According to the prince of the powers of the air. This clause is parallel to the preceding one, and sets forth the personality and operations which stand behind the course of this world, working in it and through it. That Satan is referred to in the word ‘prince’ or ‘ruler,’ is clear from such expressions as 2 Corinthians 4:4 : ‘the god of this world.’ ‘Of the powers,’ lit, ‘power,’ sums up ‘as a collective designation of their empire and sovereignty’ (Ellicott), all the powers of which Satan is the ruler and head. These ‘powers’ are then defined as ‘of the air.’ This difficult expression has a local reference, as is generally agreed; but whether it is to be taken literally or figuratively, or in both senses, has been much discussed. The leading explanations are: (1.) The physical atmosphere, as the abode of evil spirits. Some trace this notion to the Rabbins, others to Pythagorean philosophy. But this view is not supported by other passages; see chap. Ephesians 6:12. This difficulty is obviated by the explanation of Bishop Ellicott, who extends the term ‘to all that supra-terrestrial, but sub-celestial region, which seems to be, if not the abode, yet the haunt of evil spirits.’ (2.) Paul uses the common language of the time, without teaching anything in regard to demonology. This is too indefinite. (3.) The language is figurative; referring to an ideal atmosphere corresponding to the character of the world of sin and Satan. Others explain ‘air’ as meaning ‘darkness,’ and then take the latter in its usual figurative sense. (4.) Some combine the literal and figurative meanings; but this view is as difficult to state as it is to defend. The subject is one about which we know very little, but on the whole the extended local sense is to be preferred, both because there is no well established figurative sense of ‘air,’ and because the ethical characteristics of ‘the powers’ are indicated in the next clause.

Of the spirit, etc. This is in apposition with ‘the powers of the air.’ ‘Of’ is inserted to show that it is not in apposition with ‘prince,’ the original not admitting of that explanation. Two views are allowable, though neither of them is free from objection: (1.) That it refers to the evil influence emanating from Satan as ‘prince,’ there being a tacit contrast to the Spirit of God, which works in the hearts of believers. This ‘spirit’ is distinct from the men whom it influences, and is analogous to the common expression, used in a bad sense, ‘the spirit of the age.’ The objection that this represents Satan as ruler of a principle, is not very serious. (2.) Some take ‘spirit’ collectively as=‘spirits,’ designating the ‘powers’ according to their aggregate character; but this view is more objectionable than the other, since ‘spirit’ is never used elsewhere in the collective sense, and the defining clause which follows points to one and the same agency.

Which is now working. ‘Now,’ in contrast with ‘once.’ They were formerly under the same influence, which is still operating. A reference to a special activity of Satan since redemption has been accomplished, is not necessarily included.

In the sons of disobedience. The phrase is a Hebraism. ‘But it is strictly reproduced in fact: that of which they are sons, is the source and spring of their lives, not merely an accidental quality belonging to them’ (Alford). ‘In’ is not simply ‘among, but points to the internal operations of the spirit which proceeds from Satan, the prince of the powers of the air. To the Apostle, Satan, his kingdom, his emissaries and his operations in the souls of men, were fearful realities; comp. chap. Ephesians 6:11-12.


Verse 3

Ephesians 2:3. Among whom, i.e., ‘the sons of disobedience,’ not ‘among which,’ referring to ‘trespasses’ (Ephesians 2:1).

We also all, etc. ‘Also,’ or ‘even,’ is to be connected with ‘we all,’ but the main question is respecting the exact reference of the latter phrase, whether it means ‘all Jewish Christians, or ‘all Christians.’ The former view would be best expressed by translating ‘even we.’ In favor of this is the fact that ‘you’ (Ephesians 2:1-2) refers to the Gentile Christians, and the previous distinction (chap. Ephesians 1:12-13) between these classes. The latter view is, however, supported by Paul’s use of ‘we all’ in other passages (comp. Romans 4:16; Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18), and by the universal applicability of the statement of the verse, and by the wide reference of ‘we,’ ‘us,’ in the rest of the section. Perhaps it is safest to follow this usage (against the mass of commentators). The fact of universal sinfulness is involved, whether we suppose the Apostle to be stating that all Christians were children of wrath by nature, or emphasizing this in the case of the Jews, who had thought themselves children of promise by nature. The phrase ‘even as the rest’ must be interpreted in accordance with the view taken of ‘we all.’

Had our way of life once. ‘Once,’ but not ‘now;’ the word is the same as in Ephesians 2:2. But the verb rendered ‘had our way of life,’ presents substantially the same idea as ‘walked’ (Ephesians 2:2). ‘Conversation’ (E. V.) is now misleading.

In the lusts of our flesh. The life they led was in this sphere, the lusts which spring from and belong to the ‘flesh.’ The word is to be taken here in its strictly ethical sense, the entire human nature turned away from God, in the supreme service of self, seeking its delight in the creature; comp. Excursus, Romans 7.

Doing the desires (Greek, ‘wills’) of the flesh and of the thoughts. This clause defines more fully the preceding phrase ‘had our way of life.’ The word ‘desires’ points to the various manifestations of the will, in its confused, enslaved, fleshly condition; the notion of desiring is included, but is not the prominent one. ‘Flesh’ is here used in its ethical sense; ‘the thoughts’ are the special sinful thoughts, which characterize him who is under the dominion of the ‘flesh.’ ‘Mind’ is altogether incorrect here; and equally objectionable are these interpretations which contrast ‘flesh’ and ‘thoughts,’ as referring to sensual and intellectual sins. Man is here represented ‘as the slave of his inborn nature and of his selfish thought; the two are turned to various objects, and in his desires create a diversity. The understanding or the reason stands in the service of the flesh, falls into subtleties, seeking reasons, excuses, ways and means for the “lusts of the flesh,” helping the desires to strengthen into determinations and activities of the will’ (Braune).

We were children, by nature, of wrath. We give the order of the original, and insert ‘we’ to bring out the emphasis which rests on the verb. What they ‘were,’ not what they ‘are,’ is de scribed. The change of construction points to a state which was not the result of the action just portrayed, but rather its cause. ‘By nature’ is not the emphatic phrase, but is in implied contrast with what they became by adoption. The phrase undoubtedly refers to something innate, original, as distinguished from subsequent development and external influences. Bishop Ellicott finds in Galatians 2:15; Romans 2:14; Galatians 4:8, respectively, the meanings (a.) transmitted inborn nature; (b.) inherent nature; (c.) essential nature. The first is the sense here; the unemphatic position forbids our finding here any direct assertion of the doctrine of original sin, but this very position suggests a contrast which assumes that fact ‘Children of wrath’ means exposed to God’s holy hatred of sin. ‘We were from birth those who were forfeited to the divine wrath’ (Braune). This view of the passage is confirmed by the next clause, which declares the state to be a universal one. All efforts to explain away the fact of this universal natural state of condemnation fail, both because of such passages as Romans 5:12-21, and on account of the facts of human nature itself; ‘experience confirms the Divine testimony’ (Eadie), whether we can explain the mode or not. See Excursus on Romans 5:12-21.

Even as the rest. (The broken construction of the original is reproduced by placing a dash at the end of the verse.) Those who refer ‘we all’ to all Christians explain this as including all the rest of mankind, who are not Christians; those who limit the former phrase to Jewish Christians, differ as to the sense of the latter; some include only unbelieving Jews, others Gentiles, while others give it the widest reference. In any case the universality of sin and guilt is asserted in the passage as a whole; and that the close of this verse ‘contains an indirect, and there fore even more convincing assertion of the doctrine of Original Sin, it seems impossible to deny’ (Ellicott). But notice, that the Apostle dwells on this fact only to bring out the more strongly the side of grace.


Verse 4

Ephesians 2:4. But God. ‘But’ resumes the main thought, yet not without an implied antithesis between those described in Ephesians 2:1-3, and ‘God.’

Being rich in mercy, ‘Being as He is,’ not = ‘who is,’ and not so strongly causal as ‘because He is.’ ‘Rich in mercy; comp. similar expressions in 1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 9:11; James 2:5. ‘Mercy’ is more general than ‘compassion’ (comp. Romans 9:15); both refer to God’s love toward sinners, as those who are miserable and need help.

Became of his great love wherewith he loved us. Strictly speaking, ‘love’ is the general term, one of the forms of which is ‘mercy;’ and this love belongs to God’s essence; comp. 1 John 4:16. But here the whole phrase qualifies the verbs, ‘quickened,’ etc., assigning the special ground for these actions; hence the reference is to love which has manifested itself, love for persons (‘us’). It was to satisfy this love that He wrought the saving acts afterwards named. Bengel well says: ‘mercy removes misery, love confers salvation.’ ‘Us’ includes all believers, and is not to be limited to Jewish Christians.


Verse 5

Ephesians 2:5. Even when we were dead by (or, ‘on account of’) our trespasses. The word rendered ‘even’ might mean ‘and,’ but seems to have an intensive force here. ‘We’ is to be taken in its widest sense, else the force of what follows is weakened. ‘Dead on account of our trespasses’ is precisely as in Ephesians 2:1; the E. V. unfortunately rendering the same word ‘trespasses’ there and ‘sins’ here. The article before ‘trespasses’ has the force of ‘our.’

Quickened us together with Christ. Spiritual quickening is meant, since the contrast is with those spiritually ‘dead,’ but the prominence given to the fact of Christ’s resurrection leads us to include a reference to bodily quickening also. ‘Together with Christ’ points to fellowship with Him. The tense in the original (both here and in Ephesians 2:6) indicates a single past act, and is properly explained thus: ‘When He was raised physically, all His people were raised ideally in Him; and in consequence of this connection with Him, they are, through faith, actually quickened and raised’ (Eadie).

By grace ye are, or, ‘have been,’ saved. A past act with permanent results is indicated. The emphasis rests on the word ‘grace,’ love to the undeserving. ‘This emphatic mention of grace (grace, not works) is to make the readers feel what their own hearts might otherwise have caused them to doubt,

the real and vital truth, that they have present and actual fellowship with Christ, yea and even in the resurrectionary and glorifying power of God’ (Ellicott).


Verse 6

Ephesians 2:6. And raised us up together, etc. The thought of Ephesians 2:5 is carried out in detail: ‘Together’ is = ‘with Him,’ Christ, whose Resurrection and exaltation have already been set forth as the exhibition of Divine energy in accordance with which God’s power is exerted to usward who believe (chap. Ephesians 1:19-21). The reference, as in Ephesians 2:5, is physical and future, but at the same time spiritual and present

In the heavenly places. This is to be explained as in chap. Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20. Bengel notices that ‘at His right hand’ (chap. Ephesians 1:20) can be applied to Christ alone, but this phrase to all Christians.

In Christ Jesus. This does not qualify ‘in the heavenly places,’ but should be joined with the verbs. It brings out more fully than ‘together,’ the fact that all these saving acts are in virtue of our mystical union with Christ. Comp. the close of the next verse.


Verse 7

Ephesians 2:7. That he might show forth. More than ‘manifest,’ or, ‘make known;’ implying an active, effective, demonstration. This is the purpose of the redeeming facts (Ephesians 2:4-6).

In the ages to come. In the successive periods of time between the resurrection of Christ and His Second Advent. Comp. Colossians 1:26-27. This suggests that. Paul was already aware that there would be a long course of development during these intervening ages. In Paul’s later Epistles there are comparatively few references to the Second Advent, and in this Epistle only this incidental one.

The exceeding riches. Exceeding because triumphant, superior to wrath and Satan.

Of his grace in kindness toward us. ‘Grace’ is the free outgoing of love for the undeserving; ‘in kindness’ points out that this condescending love manifests itself in working benefits toward these who are undeserving.

In Christ. Jesus (not, ‘through’), repeated here, is not to be joined with ‘us,’ but with the verb. This is the ever blessed sphere in which the demonstration to all ages takes place. ‘In this entirely unique Person, including in Himself all that man needs for a renewal well pleasing to God, presenting in His resurrection and exaltation, not merely a type, but the dynamic principle for the elevation of humanity to sonship with God

in this Person is set forth all that is specifically Christian in Christianity’ (Braune). To ignore Him or vital fellowship with Him is to throw away the riches of grace for ourselves, and to hinder the showing forth of these riches to others.


Verse 8

Ephesians 2:8. For by grace, etc. The Apostle now reverts to the means by which deliverance has been wrought, repeating the clause introduced parenthetically in Ephesians 2:5. Here, however, the article is used with ‘grace,’ pointing to God’s grace, already defined in Ephesians 2:7.

Are, or, ‘have been,’ saved. ‘Ye have been saved, and ye are now in a state of salvation.’

Through faith. This is not the emphatic phrase, but adds the subjective means, as so often in Paul’s writings. ‘Salvation by grace is not arbitrarily attached to faith by the mere sovereign dictate of the Most High, for man’s willing acceptance of salvation is essential to his possession of it’ (Eadie). Comp. Augustine: ‘He who created thee without thee, will not save thee without thee.’

And this not of yourselves; the gift is God’s. ‘This’ might with correctness refer either to salvation or to ‘faith;’ but the mass of recent commentators accept the former view, as more grammatical, as preserving better the parallelism of the passage (‘not of your-selves;’ ‘not of works’). The gender of ‘this’ in Greek differs from that of the word ‘faith.’ The last clause is a positive statement added to the negative one: the gift of salvation comes from God, by whose grace we have been and are saved.


Verse 9

Ephesians 2:9. Not of works. This resumes the negative side, asserting that salvation does not proceed from works, as a meritorious ground. Comp. on Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16, etc. It is obvious that we cannot supply ‘faith’ here, and this is a strong argument for the view taken of the latter part of Ephesians 2:8.

That no man should boast, or, ‘glory;’ comp. on Romans 2:17. The purpose of this method of grace is that God alone should have the glory, the negative side of which is ‘that no man should boast’ On this familiar thought of the Apostle, see marginal references.


Verse 10

Ephesians 2:10. For his handiwork are we. This is the reason there should be no human glorying. The rendering we adopt brines out the emphasis which the original places on the word ‘His,’ and brings the word ‘we’ closer to ‘created’ which agrees with it, not with ‘handiwork.’ This term, meaning ‘that which is made,’ does not correspond with ‘works’ (Ephesians 2:9), but is that which is transferred into Latin and English, as poema, poem. The same notion that poetry is the highest human creation is found in other languages.

Created in Christ Jesus for good works. The reference is to the new creation, the spiritual renewal, and not to the physical creature also. By means of this creation in Christ Jesus there is a ‘new man’ (Ephesians 2:15; comp. chap. Ephesians 4:21-22). ‘Unto’ is not an exact rendering of the preposition, which here expresses not simply the end of salvation, but also the result. ‘Good work’ are those performed in consequence of this new creation in Christ Jesus. Their goodness springs from the new motive of love, not from any forced conformity to law. They are the evidence of the new creation, not in any sense its cause, for the Apostle is here proving (‘for’) that salvation as a whole (comp. Ephesians 2:8-9) is by grace, not of works. The statement that salvation is of works involves the fallacy of mistaking the effect for the cause. Moreover, even good works have in them no saving merit, for God new created us so that these might be the result.

Which God before prepared. The construction of the original has occasioned some discussion, but the mass of recent commentators accept the view that ‘which’ (referring to ‘good works’) is the object of the verb. The compound verb means to ‘prepare before,’ and retains that sense here. It is not to be taken as neuter, nor rendered ‘predestined;’ comp. Romans 9:23. In the latter the end is made prominent; in this verb, the means. Nor should the force of ‘before’ be overlooked in the interpretation. While the term ‘good works,’ without the article, does not necessarily point to particular actions of individuals, we must find in ‘before’ a previous arrangement, a linking of causes and efforts, to further the performance of good works.

That we should walk in them. Bengel: ‘That we should walk, not that we should be saved, or should live.’ This is the design, and therefore becomes the result. It is not the ultimate end, it is true, but an immediate and essential one. God so prepares, by His providence and grace alike, that we may so act as to perform the works He deems good. Countless arrangements in nature, in society, in our lives, external and internal also, combine to provide for us this path wherein to walk. He who has been new created in Christ Jesus knows how real this preparation is, how abundant are the providential opportunities for expressing that love to Christ (the first of faith) which necessarily manifests itself in good works, and which alone can make them good. God accounts those works ‘good’ which He has prepared before as the sphere of our moral life. They are the results He designed in a plan of salvation by grace, not of works. The antagonism between ‘faith’ and ‘good works’ is altogether unscriptural; the real opposition is between ‘faith’ and ‘works’ which minister to pride. The gospel says: Live and do this; the law (and with it all that ministers to human glorying): Do this and live. The principles are antagonistic, but eighteen centuries of practical demonstration render all the more emphatic the assertions of the Apostle.


Verse 11

Ephesians 2:11. Wherefore. Since you have been blessed, as set forth in Ephesians 2:1-7, ‘the declaratory portion of the foregoing paragraph’ (Ellicott).

Remember. The exhortation, as is evident, is to recall both their previous and present condition, since the contrast is to heighten their gratitude.

That once ye, Gentiles in the flesh. ‘Once’ here = formerly. ‘Ye’ refers to those of the readers who are now Christians. ‘Gentiles,’ lit., ‘the Gentiles,’ but the English article does not convey the force of the original,’ belonging to the class of.’ ‘In the flesh’ has not here the ethical sense, but refers to their external condition of un-circumcision, as appears from what follows.

Who are called Uncircumcision. This further defines the class to which they belonged. The Gentiles were thus called, in accordance with the fact, but the name was contemptuously bestowed by the Jews: by that which is called (or, ‘by so-called’) Circumcision. There is here a change of form, indicating that in this case the thing and the name do not coincide exactly, as in the previous instance.

In the flesh wrought by hands, i.e., wrought in the flesh by men’s hands. The Apostle does not undervalue circumcision, but suggests that the true circumcision is of the heart (Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11), to which the external sign was designed to point. ‘The Jew who remains satisfied with this external mark of the covenant with Israel, is a so-called circumcised one, and exalts himself without reason arrogantly above the un-circumcised and unclean nations. How miserable must be the condition of the heathen, who are despised by the Jew! So much the more glorious is it that they as Christians are now exalted above the latter’ (Braune).


Verses 11-22

2. Redemption in Christ as Reconciliation between Jew and Gentile, because both are reconciled with God.

The Apostle bases upon his previous statement (especially Ephesians 2:1-7) an exhortation to recall what redeeming grace in Christ had done for them. He recalls their previous condition without Christ, as one of alienation from God’s people and from God Himself (Ephesians 2:11-12). With this he contrasts their present condition of nearness to God (Ephesians 2:13), detailing the means by which this change has been brought about, namely, through the Person and sufferings of Christ (Ephesians 2:14-18). He then sketches their present condition, as citizens in God’s kingdom, as members of His family, as constituent parts of the holy temple in which God dwells in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22). The references to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are perhaps most marked in this section, as they are certainly most practical and precious.


Verse 12

Ephesians 2:12. That ye were at that time. This is what they should remember; Ephesians 2:11 being an explanation of ‘ye.’ The emphasis rests on ‘were;’ the fact that this was their condition being made more prominent by the added phrase ‘at that time,’ which is stronger than ‘once.’

Apart from Christ, deprived of Him, the promised Messiah, separated from Him. This was the state of the Gentiles. What follows is an expansion of the meaning of this phrase, not something additional, or confirmatory.

Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. This part of the verse sets forth the two sides of their condition as Gentiles, separated from Christ. The external relation is first described, and in two clauses; then the internal relation (‘having no hope,’ etc.). ‘Alienated’ is more exact than ‘aliens,’ pointing to a previous nearness, for Paul in Romans 1:18, etc., states that there was such a process of alienation from God, and this alienation would be involved in that. ‘The commonwealth of Israel’ may mean that commonwealth which was Israel, or which belonged to Israel. The latter is preferable and the reference is not to a civil constitution, or to citizenship, but rather to the theocratic spiritual privileges which the Jewish people possessed.

Strangers from the covenants of the promise. This is the second half of the external relation, corresponding closely to the previous clause. ‘Covenants,’ as in Romans 9:4, points to the several renewals of the covenant with the patriarchs, all pertaining to the one ‘promise’ of the Messiah. To these the Gentiles were ‘strangers,’ having no part in them. The reference is not to the old and new covenants, or to the two tables of the law.

Having no hope. The internal phrase of their condition ‘apart from Christ’ is now described. The Gentiles were not only without the Messianic hope but without any hope. This does not depend upon the previous clause, as the result of their being ‘strangers,’ but points to the thoughts and feelings which these converted Gentiles could recall, and which are ex-pressed in the heathen writings of that age

Without God, in the world. This is the second part of the description of their internal condition, and is properly divided into two distinct yet related thoughts. ‘Without God’ is an adjective in the original and may mean, (1.) opposed to God; (2.) ignorant of God; (3.) forsaken of God, without His help. The last (or passive) sense agrees best with the passive character of the entire description. This is not a weakening of the thought, since this is the darkest fact in the whole history of heathenism. ‘In the world’ is not simply ‘among men,’ or an unnecessary addition, but points to the depraved world as the place where they continued as forsaken of God. This view is sustained by the correspondence with ‘the commonwealth of Israel.’ The whole verse asserts that they were, as Gentiles, deprived of Christ, and this meant, without church, without promise, hopeless, godless, homeless.


Verse 13

Ephesians 2:13. But now. This too is what they should remember, but the Apostle continues the contrast in an independent sentence.

In Christ Jesus, in fellowship with Him, contrasted with ‘apart from Christ.’ ‘Jesus’ is added, because the personal Messiah, who had come, is referred to. The phrase explains ‘now,’ and qualifies the verb which follows.

Once were far off; so the Jews would speak of Gentiles.

Have been brought nigh; lit., ‘became nigh.’ The literal form cannot be joined with ‘now’ in English, but the single effect of a past act is expressed by the original. What that event was, is at once indicated by the words, in the blood of Christ. This is more than ‘through,’ or ‘by,’ although it includes this sense, already expressed in chap. Ephesians 1:7. It indicates the blood of Christ as ‘the symbol of a fact in which—the seal of a covenant in which—your nearness to God consists’ (Alford). This is the permanent ground of the becoming nigh.


Verse 14

Ephesians 2:14. For. This introduces a confirmatory explanation of the preceding verse.

He is our peace. The subject is emphatic: ‘He and none other’; the personal Christ, whose blood was shed, is Himself our peace, not simply our peacemaker; for in His person, as God man, the reconciliation took place. ‘Peace’ is here to be taken in its widest sense, as the complex idea of peace between God and man, and between Jews and Gentiles. The latter is based upon the former, and the Apostle gives prominence now to the one, and again to the other, but here necessarily includes both in the phrase, ‘our peace.’ How He is our peace is specified in what follows (down to the close of Ephesians 2:17).

Who made both one. Both Jews and Gentiles, as the context shows.

And broke down the middle wall of the partition. This explains how he ‘made both one,’ namely, in that He broke down, etc. The figure is a natural one. Between the Jews and the Gentiles there had existed a ‘middle wall,’ which belonged to ‘the partition,’ the well-known hedge or fence between the two classes. Others explain: the middle wall which was the partition; but the former view is preferable, since it gives a wider meaning to the latter term, better suited to the complex idea of peace running through the passage. The ‘hedge’ was the whole Mosaic economy which separated between Jews and Gentiles, but which, as Ephesians 2:15-16 indicate, also separated both from God, by convincing of guilt and sin. How the ‘middle wall,’ which resulted from and belonged to this economy, was broken down once for all, is explained in what follows. The figures may have been suggested by the Jewish temple. ‘There was there a court of the Gentiles (Acts 21:28), though only in later times, in the last temple; a vail which separated like a wall, rent first at the death of the Redeemer’ (Braune).


Verse 15

Ephesians 2:15. To wit, the enmity. The order of the original favors the view that ‘enmity’ is in apposition with ‘middle wall’ (Ephesians 2:14); but the reading of the E. V. is not an impossible one. The other is, however, preferable for a number of other reasons. ‘Enmity’ is then an explanation of the previous figure, and must refer to the enmity between Jews and Gentiles. Yet not to this alone, ‘but also, and as the widening context shows, more especially to the alienation of both Jew and Gentile from God’ (Ellicott). Comp-the use of the word ‘peace’ (Ephesians 2:14), and Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 2:18, etc.

Having done away in his flesh. ‘In His flesh’ comes first in the original, hence some have joined it with ‘enmity.’ But this is objectionable. Others join it with ‘broke down’ in Ephesians 2:14, which is grammatically possible. On the whole it seems best to connect it with ‘done away,’ and to regard its position as very emphatic. The phrase is not precisely the same as ‘by His flesh, although the reference is to His death (comp. Ephesians 2:16), which abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. It was thus that the ‘enmity’ was broken down, namely, by the doing away of that ‘law’ which was the exponent of the enmity, not only as between Jew and Gentile, but as between man and God. The special reference is to the Mosaic law, as a whole. This law was made up of ‘commandments, which took the form of decrees demanding obedience. (It is altogether incorrect to explain ‘in ordinances’ as ‘in Christian doctrines’ and then to join it with ‘done away.’) This law was done away by Christ ‘in His flesh.’ ‘In that He fulfilled the law in deed and in truth, performed God’s will and suffered in obedience, He rendered it powerless in its single ordinances, dissolving its separative features. It thus gained through Him internal validity and importance, so that it no longer burdens men, but they stand and walk in and on the same as a common soil within salutary bounds. Here, too, all depends on His person and our relation to Him’ (Braune). This thought of the doing away of the law through the death of Christ is a familiar one in Paul’s writings, expressed now under one figure, and again under another. The fundamental fact is that Christ, by His atoning death, has done away with the law ‘so far as it was a covenant prescribing the conditions of salvation’ (Hodge). Even as an ethical guide, it has no real power, except with those ‘who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4).

That he might create, etc. This is the purpose of the ‘doing away,’ but virtually explains ‘made both one’ (Ephesians 2:14).

The two, i.e., Jews and Gentiles.

In himself; not,’ through Himself.’ ‘The ground of the existence and permanence is in Him; He is the author and foundation, and at the same time the life-sphere, creator, and second Adam, progenitor of the new race, which stands in the original peace with God’ (Braune).

Into one new man. ‘New’ is almost equivalent to ‘renewed’ in this connection; the contrast being with the ‘old man’ (chap. Ephesians 4:22) hostile to God. The two are not only reconciled to each other as one man, but with God, so that they are created into one new man.

So making peace. Evidently in the wide complex sense, between man and man, because between God and man. This is the purpose of the new creation, and is a continued process in connection with it.


Verse 16

Ephesians 2:16. And might reconcile them both. Parallel with the clause, ‘that He might create,’ etc. The compound verb here used occurs elsewhere only in Colossians 1:20-21. It may either be a strengthened form, or mean ‘reconcile again.’ The former is preferable, since the context speaks of ‘one new man,’ ‘one body,’ not of a restoration. On the N. T. idea of reconciliation, see Romans 5:10-11. ‘Them both,’ i.e., Jews and Gentiles who are united together; the reconciliation, however, being between God and ‘them both,’ as the context shows.

In one body to God through the cross. The reference is not to Christ’s human body, but to his mystical body (comp. chap. Ephesians 1:23), the church. Jews and Gentiles being, as they are, in this one body, are reconciled to God through the death of Christ ‘Through the cross’ points to the expiatory sacrifice of Christ as the ground of the reconciliation, in accordance with the teaching of the entire Bible. By means of this there can be removed from us the Divine wrath against sin (Ephesians 2:3), to which there is an allusion in all the figures employed in this section. We must hold fast to the revealed truth, so precious to our consciences, that whatever God’s perfections required as the basis of peace with Him was accomplished by the atoning death of Christ

Having slain the enmity on it, i.e., on the cross, ‘having slain’ carrying out the figure suggested by the reference to the crucifixion. ‘The enmity’ has been explained (1.) of enmity toward God, (2.) of enmity between Jew and Gentile, (3.) of both. The last is preferable, for the complex idea runs through the whole passage. In Ephesians 2:15 ‘enmity’ must include the attitude of Jew and Gentile, and so here; yet to refer the term to this alone is contrary to the entire sweep of thought from Ephesians 2:16 to the close of the chapter. The enmity is ‘that between man and God, which Christ did slay on the cross, and which being brought to an end, the separation between Jew and Gentile which was the result of it, was done away’(Alford).


Verse 17

Ephesians 2:17. And he came and preached (‘brought good tidings of’) peace. This verse is not dependent on what precedes, but is connected in thought with, ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14), which is explained by what intervenes. The reference in ‘came’ cannot be to His coming in the flesh, since no such preaching took place then, but must be to some coming after His resurrection. In accordance with John 14:18, it is usually explained of His coming in the gift of the Holy Ghost, as the result of which these good tidings of peace were everywhere proclaimed through the preachers of the gospel. (See marginal references on this coming through the Holy Spirit.) It is not to be referred to His salutation of peace after the resurrection, nor limited to the day of Pentecost, nor to the Apostles. In the case of each Christian this coming is at conversion.

To you who were afar off. The Gentiles are mentioned first, both in accordance with Isaiah 57:19, where similar language occurs, and because of the importance attached to this phase of subject. This order opposes the view that ‘came’ refers to Christ’s coming in the flesh.

Peace to them who were nigh, i.e., the Jews. The Apostle does not say ‘us,’ lest he might uphold ‘the distinction where he wishes to merge it altogether’ (Alford). The repetition of the word ‘peace’ with both classes shows that it has here its complex sense, but with the emphasis resting on ‘peace with God.’


Verse 18

Ephesians 2:18. For through him. The truth of Ephesians 2:17 is proven from the effect of Christ’s thus coming and preaching peace. ‘Through Him,’ which is more than ‘through His blood,’ is the emphatic phrase. Only through the mediation of this Person, Jesus Christ,

We both, Jews and Gentiles, have our access, lit.,’ the access.’ The primary sense of the word is ‘introduction;’ and some render it thus, both here and in Romans 5:2. The present tense (‘we have’) points either to a continued freedom of ‘access,’ or to the process going on as each one obtains this ‘introduction.’ The former seems more appropriate.

In one Spirit, i.e., in the fellowship of the one Holy Spirit. Neither the human frame of mind nor the human spirit can be meant; and ‘in ‘is not to be weakened into ‘through.’

Unto the Father. The prepositions are aptly chosen, to discriminate the respective economical relations of the Persons of the Godhead in our salvation. The end is the glory of the Father, unto whom we are brought through Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.


Verse 19

Ephesians 2:19. So then. A favorite phrase in the writings of the Apostle. It sums up and infers.

Ye are no longer; in contrast with Ephesians 2:12, and in consequence of the saving facts detailed in Ephesians 2:13-18.

Strangers and sojourners. The same class is designated by both terms, which together form an antithesis to ‘fellow citizens;’ ‘strangers’ describing the Gentiles as belonging to another state; ‘sojourners’ as not yet possessed of the right of citizens. Others, however, take the former alone as in contrast with ‘fellow citizens,’ the latter being explained as the absence of domestic privileges, in contrast with ‘of the family of God.’ But the term will scarcely bear this sense.

But ye are. The correct text emphasizes ‘are.’

Fellow citizens with the saints. The figure requires no explanation; comp. Ephesians 2:12. ‘The saints’ here includes all ‘the members of that spiritual community in which Jew and Gentile Christians were now united and incorporated, and to which the external theocracy formed a typical and preparatory institution’ (Ellicott). It is almost equivalent to the ‘spiritual Israel.’ To refer it to angels, or even to include them, is unwarranted.

And of the household of God. Comp. Galatians 6:10 (‘of the household of faith’). ‘This means those who belong to the house, to the family, whose Head and Father is God. To the right of citizen is added that of the house, of the child, of the heir’ (Braune). The new figure strengthens the idea of privilege, adding the intimate relation to God.


Verse 20

Ephesians 2:20. Built up upon the foundation. The figure naturally passes over into that of a house in which God dwells (Ephesians 2:22). The participle expresses the notion of a superstructure, in accordance with the mention of ‘the foundation.’

Of the apostles and prophets. The latter term refers to the New Testament prophets (comp. chaps. Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11), since both the order of the words and the thought of the passage opposes a reference to Old Testament prophets. Some have taken ‘prophets’ as identical with ‘apostles,’ because the article is not repeated; but this is not conclusive. The ‘prophets’ in the New Testament church were a distinct class of extraordinary teachers. Three explanations of the entire phrase are possible: (1.) The foundation consisting of the Apostles and prophets; (2.) the foundation belonging to them; (3.) the foundation laid by them, The first view avoids confusing the foundation and corner-stone, and presents no doctrinal difficulty; since in this living temple these persons might be properly regarded as the foundation. But the whole analogy of Scripture figures seems to be against it. The second takes Christ as the foundation; but this is against the specific mention of Him as corner-stone. The third points to the preaching of Christ by the Apostles, as the foundation, and is now the usual view. The only objection is that it represents those who are parts of the building as agents in laying the foundation; but they rested on it even while they laid it. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Christ Jesus himself, etc. There is considerable variation in the manuscripts, but this is the better supported reading. The corner-stone unites the parts of the building and supports it as a whole, the most important stone. Comp. the references. Christ is thus termed, because ‘the historical living Christ, to whom all Christian faith and life refers, through Himself necessarily conditions the existence and permanence of every Christian community, just as the existence and firmness of a building is not possible without the corner-stone which holds together the entire edifice’ (Meyer). Ephesians 2:21.

In whom; in Christ, not in the cornerstone, or foundation. Not through Him, but in Him, as the point of union and support.

Every building. The omission of the article in the Greek, by the best authorities, makes this the literal sense. Most commentators, however, think that ‘all the building’ is the meaning, the article being dispensed with, as with proper names, in accordance with a tendency which is manifest in later usage. Certainly ‘every building’ gives a very peculiar turn to the thought, where union with and in Christ has been the theme. ‘Building,’ in any case, refers to an edifice in process of erection. ‘Every’ would point to the separate Christian congregations, each of them growing in the same way, in the Personal Christ. Yet even when thus explained, the distributive sense seems harsh.

Fitly framed together is growing. The participle, as well as the verb, represents an action still going on, namely, that of fitting together the different parts. The word is derived from that translated ‘joints’ in Hebrews 4:12, and occurs only here and in chap. Ephesians 4:16. In the latter passage the organism of a living body is referred to, and probably that idea should be included here, since this participle must be joined with ‘in whom.’ The growth is both outward and inward, extensive and intensive, in numbers and in grace.

Unto a holy temple. The word is the more restricted one, applied to the ‘sanctuary.’ Meyer insists that we should render ‘the holy temple,’ since the article might be omitted in speaking of so well-known an object; the Apostle, as a Jew, having in mind but one temple. If ‘every building’ refers to each congregation of believers, then they are fitted together in their growth toward this end, of being one holy temple.

In the Lord, i.e., Christ, not God. Some take this as defining ‘holy’ more closely; others join it with the verb, thus repeating ‘in whom.’ It seems best to regard as a further definition of ‘holy temple,’ added with a grammatical laxity characteristic of this Epistle in its use of such phrases (‘and it is a holy temple in the Lord, and in Him alone;’ Ellicott).


Verse 22

Ephesians 2:22. In whom. Either parallel to ‘in whom’ at the beginning of Ephesians 2:21, certainly not to ‘temple,’ or more naturally referring to ‘Lord.’ Ye also, as included in the previous declaration (Ephesians 2:19-21).

Are being builded together, as a continuous process. The verb is slightly different from that in Ephesians 2:20, referring not to the superstructure, but the construction, to the compacting of the parts.

For a habitation of God. The word translated ‘habitation’ occurs only here and in Revelation 17:2. It answers to temple in Ephesians 2:21, since in the truest sense the church, as the mystical body of Christ, is the temple of God.

In the Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit, not the human spirit, nor ‘spiritually;’ nor yet ‘through the Spirit,’ but in the fellowship of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Some join it with the verb, with an instrumental sense, but, as in Ephesians 2:21 (‘in the Lord’), the phrase further defines ‘a habitation of God.’ Alford: ‘Thus we have the true temple of the Father, built in the Son, inhabited in the Spirit; the offices of the Three blessed Persons being distinctly pointed out: God, the Father, in all His fulness, dwells in, fills the Church; that Church is constituted an holy Temple to Him in the Son,—is inhabited by Him in the ever present indwelling of the Holy Spirit.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Ephesians 2:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/ephesians-2.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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