Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,C. The office and service of the church
1. The office in and for this church
1For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ [Christ Jesus]1 for [in behalf 2of] you Gentiles, If [indeed] ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God 3which is given me to you-ward: How that [That] by revelation he made known unto me the mystery [the mystery was made known2 to me]; ([omit parenthesis] as I wrote [have written] afore in few words; 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge [In accordance with which, while reading, ye can perceive my understanding]3 in the mystery of Christ,) [omit) ] 5Which in other ages [generations]4 was not made known unto [to] the sons of men, as it is [has been]5 now revealed unto [to] his holy apostles and prophets by [in] the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be [are] fellow heirs, and of the same body [fellow members], and partakers [fellow-partakers] of his [the]6 promise in Christ [Christ Jesus]7 by [through] the gospel: 7Whereof I was made [became]8 a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto [which was given9 to] me by the effectual working [ac cording to the working] of his power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is [was] this grace given, that I should preach among [to preach to]10 the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9And to make all men see what is the fellowship [dispensation]11 of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world [lit., from the ages] hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ 10[omit by Jesus Christ]:12 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in [the] heavenly places might be [made] known by [through] the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed 12[wrought] in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have [our] boldness and [our]13 access with [in] confidence by the faith of [through our faith on]14 him. 13Wherefore I desire that ye faint not [I beseech you not to faint]15 at my tribulations for you, which is [are] your glory.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Connection and Summary. With τούτου χάριν the Apostle refers to what precedes (2:19–22), not exclusively to Eph 3:22 (BLEEK, also MEYER), which is only a conclusion, although a comprehensive one. The reference to Eph 3:11–22 (STIER) is preferable to that of BLEEK, yet the first part of that section contains merely an antithesis which has been overcome and is past. Without any fear of a relapse he now looks forward and points to the end and aim.—From the fact that the church, “of the family of God,” is built together in Christ “unto an habitation of God in the Spirit,” there proceeds as a result: the Apostle’s intercession and exhortation (Eph 3:14–19)16 the weight and indispensable consideration of which rest upon the office, not the person, although person and office do and must include each other; if the former rightly regards and administers the latter, the latter makes its importance felt chiefly in its bearer. Hence Eph 3:1–12 treat of the apostolic office as the appointed subject of the intercession and exhortation. Eph 3:1 describes the present efficient bearer of this office in general; Eph 3:2 defines the office as a gift of God’s grace, which according to Eph 3:3, 4 has been imparted in a special manner and according to Eph 3:5 now for the first time, having as its task the reception of all nations through the proclamation of the gospel (Eph 3:6). Eph 3:7, 8 a mark the service and the unworthiness of its recipient, Eph 3:8 b, 9, the extent of the task allotted to this gift; Eph 3:10 points to the aim; Eph 3:11, back to the beginning and foundation; Eph 3:12, to the carrying out of the task already begun. So STIER in the main.
Eph 3:1. The person holding the office. For this Cause. Τούτου χάριν is an emphatic expression, occurring elsewhere only in 3:14; Tit. 1:5. It is stronger than διό, διὰ τοῦτο, introducing something special. [It means for this reason and is aptly rendered in the E. V]—To this strong expression corresponds: I Paul, ἐγὼ ΙΙαῦλος.—The phrase is found also in 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:2; Col. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:18; Philemon 19 (and Eph 3:9). Similarly ἐγὼ Ἰωάννης, Rev. 1:9; 22:8; 21:2 (Rec). He mentions his name, not on account of his person (Eph 3:8), but because of his office and-the importance of what he is doing.
The prisoner of Christ Jesus [ὁδέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ.]—In 4:1 alone do we find ἐν κυρίῳ, elsewhere always (2 Tim. 1:8; Philemon 1:9) as here, with the genitive. It is undoubtedly the genitive auctoris, causæ.17 WINER, p. 178. So δεσμοὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, “bonds of the gospel” (Philemon 13) are bonds which belong to the service of the gospel, ὀνειδισμὸν Χριστοῦ (Heb. 13:13) is reproach which Christ bore, παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (2 Cor. 1:3). Our phrase is not=for Christ’s sake, propter Christum. A special emphasis rests on the expression. In the Epistle to Philemon written at the same time (Eph 3:1), it even stands in the place where “Apostle” is usually found, and in Eph 3:9 (“as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus”) it is similarly used. Here it is not a predicate, but in apposition to the subject already so emphatically named, not an adjective, but a substantive added for the sake of description. BENGEL aptly remarks: legatus, isque vinctus. As if he would say: I Paul, the prisoner, not of the emperor, nor of the soldier, but of Christ Jesus, whose Apostle I am. So, following RIEGER, PASSAVANT and STIER. MEYER approaches this view (=δοῦλος Χριστοῦ).
[The phrase is taken as a predicate (εἰμί being supplied) by very many from CHRYSOSTOM to BEZA, KOPPE, MEYER. The Syriac version sustains this view, which simplifies the construction very greatly, but is open to great objection: (1) It makes “for this cause” and “on behalf of you” tautological; (2) disconnects Eph 3:2 ff. from Eph 3:1, since they then do not explain it; (3) the article could only occur in the predicate with special emphasis; this emphasis is unpauline and inconsistent with “if indeed ye have heard” (ALFORD).—Other verbs are supplied in some codices. MEYER formerly accepted a brachyology: I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus, (am a prisoner) for you Gentiles, but gave it up as untenable in his 2d ed. See further below.—R.]
In behalf of you Gentiles, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἐθνῶν.—This added phrase justifies the above interpretation. Paul is imprisoned for the Gentiles, suffers to their benefit, as is said also in Phil. 1:7, 12 ff.; Col. 4:3. Although Paul had to suffer on account of his proclamation of the gospel among the Gentiles (Acts 21:21, 28 f.; 22:21 ff.), yet ὑπέρ is not=propter (GROTIUS).18 It refers to ὑμᾶς (Eph 3:2) and is rather ad evangelium gentibus annuntiandum than annuntiatum (FLATT). BENGEL: “Pauli studio erga gentes incensi sunt persecutores, ut vincirent illum; et vincula ipsa profuere gentibus, Eph 3:13; 2 Tim. 2:10,” Here then everything “odious” is to be rejected from the term, differing thus from the expression: “once Gentiles in the flesh” (2:10). OLSHAUSEN is excellent: “He here makes mention of his bonds, in order to bring into stronger prominence the glory just described in contrast with the present condition of the church.” HARLESS also remarks: “Paul would have the Gentiles led to none other than Him, whose chains he wore, and would thus give a proof of the glory of such fellowship, exalted above suffering and shame.” STIER: “The bonds should especially show that proof of the office which proceeds from internal efficacy; the bonds themselves also preach to the Gentiles, and themselves reveal to the Apostle something new.”
At this point the sentence breaks off, and is resumed again in Eph 3:8, since it is peculiar to the naive style of the Greeks, to place the name in the nominative in a sentence, the end of which is not immediately contemplated, and since ἐμοί (Eph 3:8) is in a strikingly emphatic position, so that it refers back to ἐγώ (Eph 3:1) and thus indicates the resumption of the interrupted construction. So ŒCUMENIUS, GROTIUS.
[Not withstanding Dr. Braune’s preference for this view of the construction, it seems to be untenable. (1) Though examples of such a change of case may be found, Origen affirms that it is a solecism. (2) There is no natural connection of thought afforded by this view, while “for this cause” loses its meaning; the grace was not given for this cause, i.e., because they were built in. (3) Eph 3:8 has another obvious connection, viz., with Eph 3:6, 7, so that according to this view “the leading thought of the antapodosis in Eph 3:8 is clumsily forestalled in Eph 3:6, 7” (ALFORD).—R.]
Most however (from LUTHER to WINER, p. 526 f., BLEEK) find in Eph 3:13 a return to the thought of our verse, and in Eph 3:14 a resumption and continuation. [This view is supported, among others by THEODORET, BENGEL, FLATT, LACHMANN, RUECKERT, HARLESS, DE WETTE (who however regards the construction as “scarcely Pauline”), OLSHAUSEN, EADIE, HODGE, ALFORD, ELLICOTT. It is the simplest view, except that of MEYER, and not open to any grave objection. (1) It makes the τούτου χάριν of Eph 3:14 take up the same emphatic phrase from Eph 3:1. (2) It gives to that phrase as well as to the whole chapter an appropriate meaning, while a long digression or parenthetical statement is not unpauline. In view of the truth he has just uttered (2:19–22), he is about to pray for them, but other thoughts come in. He is a prisoner (ver, 1), that too in behalf of the Gentiles: the thought of his office leads him away (Eph 3:2–12), when at length he comes back to the thought of imprisonment (Eph 3:13) with a request that they would not despond on account of his sufferings—then he resumes (Eph 3:14). The whole seems Pauline, and need occasion no difficulty.—R.]
BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS accepts an anacoluthon without any subsequent continuation. CALVIN [legatione fungor] and others supply πρεσβεύω (from 6:20); others κεκαύ χημαι (from Phil. 2:16); while such supplements as postulo, hoc scribo [CAMERARIUS], cognovi mysterium [JEROME], sum captivus adhuc, etc., are quite ancient, and occur in some copies. A prevalent view (from the Syriac to MEYER and SCHENKEL) accepts εἰμί as the proper supplement; but it can scarcely be asserted, that Paul, τούτου χάριν, just on this account, is the Apostle to the Gentiles, the prisoner of the Lord, and that too κατʼ ἐξοχήν. [See above.]
[Among other untenable views there should be mentioned that of ZANCHIUS, CRAMER and HOLZHAUSEN, who suppose the resumption to take place in Eph 3:13. Against this may be urged the simple διό, the want of connection thus given to Eph 3:14 with its strong τούτου χάριν, and “the insufficiency of such a secondary sentiment as that in Eph 3:13 to justify the long parenthesis full of such solemn matter, as that of Eph 3:2–12” (ALFORD).—To take the whole chapter as parenthetical is still more objectionable. In that case the digression were too long, and the parts of the chapter would not find their proper connection; besides chap. 4. does not resume the thought begun in our verse.—R.]
Eph 3:2. The apostolic office is a gift of grace.
If indeed ye have19 heard, εἴ γε ἠκούσατε.—It is evident, first of all, that εἰ cannot be regarded as purely hypothetical, since it is written by the prisoner “in behalf of you,” and also since the object they have learned: “the dispensation of the grace of God,” will not admit of such a view. It is not necessary, however, to take it as=ἐπεί, since, Acts 4:9; Rom. 11:21; 1 John 4:11; see WINER, p. 417. The same is true of εἴ γε in 4:21; for there, immediately after Eph 3:20 (“but ye did not so learn Christ”), expressing accurate knowledge of the church, we find: εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε, “if indeed ye have heard him.” The particle occurs elsewhere only in Col. 1:23; Gal. 3:4 (2 Cor. 5:3, we have in various readings both εἴ γε and εἴπερ). It does not necessarily indicate a doubt, as does εἴπερ (HERMANN, ad Viger., p. 833), and hence is more like ἐπείγε, though it must not be regarded as precisely equivalent. In the form there is expressed an uncertainty, an assumption, which challenges a self-scrutiny in the case of every reader or hearer. [“Assuming that;” ALFORD, ELLICOTT, not in itself implying the rectitude of the assumption made, which depends on the context.—R.] The context, however, confirms the truth of the assumption, that they have heard. This turn of expression is therefore a rhetorical,“a more elegant and suggestive reminder” (MEYER) of the preaching of Paul, as if he had written: “for ye have heard,” or “since ye have heard.” ESTIUS: “εἴγε non est dubitantis, sed potius affirmantis.” Or we may say with STIER, that it is pre-supposition, not without a slight touch of irony, in case it were otherwise; or still more correctly: in case they would not consider the Apostle as the Apostle of the Lord for them; not to have recognized Paul, not to have received his teaching would he equivalent to not having heard. Hence it is not correct to conclude from these words, that the Epistle was not written to Ephesus (see Introd. §5, 2). Nor does this phraseology render it necessary to accept a wider, partially unknown, circle of readers (HARLESS, STIER, BLEEK and others). The assumption of CALVIN is inadmissible: “It is credible, that when he labored in Ephesus, he was silent on these topics.” Nor is it at all necessary to do violence to the verb, and render it: firmiter retinetis (PELAGIUS), intellexistis (ANSELM, GROTIUS and others). The reference is simply to preaching, especially that of Paul; hence this is termed ἀκοή (Rom. 10:16 f.). [See Romans, in loco, p. 349.—R.]
Of the dispensation of the grace of God [τὴνοἰκονομίαν τῆς χάρι τος τοῦ θεοῦ].—Οἰκονομία here follows the close of chap. 2 with its οἰκοδομή. There the building of “an habitation” is treated of, here the establishment of a household, a νέμειν (STIER). See on 1:10. This is a matter belonging to God, or still more closely to “the grace of God.” Hence it is to be regarded not as an apostolic function (PELAGIUS, ANSELM, LUTHER: office [HODGE] and others), but as a Divine arrangement. It must also be remembered that we find here, not χάρισμα, but χάρις. This χάρις is then more closely defined:
Which is given me to you-ward.—Τῆς δοθείσης μοι, as in Rom. 12:3; 15:15; 1 Cor. 3:10; Gal. 2:9, with ὑμῖν 1 Cor. 1:4. Hence it is not to be understood of Apostolic office exclusively; although the context here points to that (εἰς ὑμᾶς, as in Gal. 2:8, εἰς τὰ ἐθνη). Εἰς ὑμᾶς marks the readers as the object about which the Apostle’s position and activity was concerned, and is neither=ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, vestra causa (MORUS), nor=ἐν ὑμῖν, in vobis ( Vulgate) or inter vos, but upon, towards you; as εἰς ἡμᾶς, 1:19: hence it is not merely: with respect to you (RUECKERT). [“To you-ward,” though now unusual, expresses very well the precise shade of meaning.—R.]
Thus the apostolic office is described as a gift of God’s grace, yet not so imparted and conferred that a “dispensation” is not necessary in addition, but so that the person himself (μοι) is especially prepared for it. Here we must include all that God had done for and in Paul, from childhood on (Gal. 1:15), near and in Damascus (Acts 9:1 ff.; 22:3 ff.; 26:12 ff.); in Jerusalem (Acts 22:21) and elsewhere (Gal. 2:8; 1 Cor. 15:8–10; 2 Cor. 12:1–10). So RUECKERT especially. To regard this as merely munus apostolicum gratiose, immerito beneficio Divino creditum is too superficial. Nor can we in accordance with Col. 1:25: “the dispensation of God which was given to me for you,” explain it thus, that the administrative office of the Divine grace was committed to him (ANSELM, GROTIUS and others); here τῆς δοθείσης belongs to χάριτος, here the matter is regarded under a different aspect, and the context is different, since “heard” is the governing verb, and the office is not heard.
[This view of οἰκονομία is defended by EADIE, ALFORD, ELLICOTT (HODGE mentions it, though he thinks it differs from his own merely in form). The only remaining question is respecting the genitive. It is obviously not that of the subject, but either that of the object, “the material with respect to which the dispensation was to be exercised” (ALFORD) or that of “the point of view” (ELLICOTT). These scarcely differ here, but some such sense is favored by the passive verb ἐγνωρίσθη (Eph 3:3 where the Rec. has ἐγνώρισε).—R.]
The method of communication. Eph 3:3, 4.
Eph 3:3. That, ὅτι, gives prominence to a particular part of what they have heard, the essential part of the dispensation of the grace of God. [ALFORD: “Epexegesis of the fact implied in ἠκουσατε τὴν οἰκ., viz., of the fact that: as we say ‘how that.’ ” That is the literal rendering, “how that” is a rather inelegant exegesis.—R.]
By revelation was made known to me [κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνωρίσθη μοι].—The emphasis here rests on “by revelation,” since it comes first. As neither τινα nor τήν is added, the reference is not to some particular event, definite in itself, but not more closely indicated (Acts 9:1 ff., as OLSHAUSEN thinks, or Acts 22:21), nor to some occurrence definitely designated, but rather to the mode of making known. It is an adverbial qualification of ἐγνωρίσθη=ἀπεκαλύφθη (Eph 3:5), or like Gal. 1:15, 16. Κατά denotes, as in κατʼ ἄνθρωπον (Rom. 3:5 and frequently), κατὰ χάριν (Rom. 4:4), a mode which obtains or prevails (WINER, p. 375). [So MEYER, ALFORD, ELLICOTT, HODGE apparently.—R.] Even διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως (Gal. 1:12) does not point to a single revelation (STIER). [Comp. in loco. ELLICOTT says the allusion in the phrase as it occurs Gal. 2:2 “is rather to the norma or rule, here to the manner.”—R.] It might be interpreted (according to PASSOW, sub voce, 2:3, p. 1598 b) like ἔρχεσθαι κατὰ θήραν, to go hunting, or 2 Tim. 1:1: ἀπόστολος κατʼ ἐπαγγελίαν, apostle for the proclamation; indeed G. HERMANN explains Gal. 2:2: for the explanation, proclamation, presentation. But ἀποκάλυψις is only what occurs to man from God, not what men have to impart to one another. The word μοι, placed last, indicates that he treats of something which does not distinguish him personally, but which belongs to his office: “Revelation” and “apostles and prophets” are correlatives; γνωρίζειν is the general making known, but ἀποκάλυψις denotes that by means of which the official personages thus endowed are immediately distinguished, by means of which the Apostles become prophets. See Eph 3:5 and Doctr. Notes on 2:20.
The mystery, τὸ μυστήριον, altogether indefinite, is, like 1:9, the decree of salvation and grace in Christ (STIER), the renewing of humanity through Christ, especially moreover the calling of the Gentiles (ALLIOLI). To refer it to the latter exclusively (most commentators from CHRYSOSTOM to HARLESS, MEYER, SCHENKEL, BLEEK) is not admissible, even though Eph 3:6 follows.
[On the precise reference of the word “mystery” in this chapter. The great majority of commentators, including HODGE, EADIE, ALFORD, ELLICOTT, accept the more restricted view just mentioned, but admit the wider reference in Eph 3:4 (and many in Eph 3:9). The reasons for so doing are quite strong: the purport of the mystery is set forth in Eph 3:6, the dispensation of grace spoken of is “to you-ward,” a leading thought of the Epistle has been this calling of the Gentiles to fellowship with the Jews. Nor can it be urged against this, that it presents a matter unworthy of this designation and not at all mysterious. THOLUCK (Rom. 11:25) thus classifies the meanings of our term: (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.” In the latter sense, the calling of the Gentiles was a “mystery,” is so still in view of the separatism, which to the Gentile mind is in some aspects yet stronger. Evidently the indefinite reference, which leaves this special fact out of view, is inadmissible, while Eph 3:4 seems to require the wider meaning. Accordingly the alternating reference has been accepted to meet these requirements. To my mind it is unsatisfactory: (1) It seems unlikely that a word should thus vary so speedily, when there is so little to mark a difference. (2) The difficulty in construction is thus increased: the E. V. accepts a parenthesis so as to connect Eph 3:5, 6 with “mystery” in our verse, and thus leave the wider reference of Eph 3:4, undisturbed; but this is altogether arbitrary, since the relative clause (Eph 3:5) is to be joined directly with “mystery” (Eph 3:4) in accordance with the common structural usages of the Apostle. (3) Since then the grammatical connection is such, the purport of “the mystery of Christ” is set forth in Eph 3:6, and the alternating reference has lost its one great object, viz., the extension of the meaning in Eph 3:4.
It seems best then to accept Braune’s view, but with somewhat more definiteness in statement. “The mystery” throughout is one mystery, but in view of the universalism of the Epistle and the current of thought in this section, it here appears as complex, precisely as the notions of “enmity” and “peace” in the preceding section: the mystery of redemption, whose centre is the Person of Christ, whose object and purport is Christ, taking that term as including the Body of which He is the Head, which He has redeemed, and in which the Gentiles are “fellow-members” (σύσσωμα, Eph 3:6); the latter thought being the special reference throughout, though never to the exclusion of the wider thought, since Eph 3:6 itself with its compounds of συν compels us to think of the one inheritance, body and promise which the gospel presents. VAN OESTERZEE well remarks (LANGE’S Comm. 1 Tim. 3:16, p. 47): “Paul knows one only great mystery,” the chief truth of which as revealed to us is the Person of Christ in its connection with the Body of Christ, as the passage in the Epistle to Timothy itself teaches, and as is not obscurely hinted in. 5:32 of our Epistle. With this thought of union as the ruling one, no wonder the special reference to the union of Jews and Gentiles comes in without in the least disturbing or excluding the more general one.—R.]
As I have written afore in few words [καθὼς προέγραψα ἐνὀλίγῳ.—The English perfect brings out the force of the verb best, though it is not a literal rendering. The parenthesis of the E. V. is altogether unnecessary, the linking of clauses by relatives being common in this Epistle.—R.] Καθώς indicates that Paul has written only as “it has been made known to him by revelation,” of course, from God. This the context demands (Eph 3:2, 4). This writing has therefore great importance. The verb refers to what is written already. The phrase ἐνὀλίγῳ, in brief=διὰ βραχέων (CHRYSOSTOM, Heb. 13:22); in Plato: διʼ ὀλίγων, as in 1 Pet. 5:12. The preposition is, at all events, local: in little space=συντύμως, Acts 24:4; 26:28. (ἐν ὀλίγῳ sc. χρόνῳ). Pauca tantum attigi, cum multa dici possent (WETSTEIN). Accordingly we must apply it to the whole Epistle up to this point; in comparison with the wealth of the truth revealed, its fulness, its wide-reaching, deep-moving efficiency, what he writes is to him always little and brief. He thus speaks in modesty respecting his writings, not as though the time for a more thorough treatise failed him (SCHENKEL). The reference is to such passages as 1:9 ff.; 17 ff.; 2:4 ff.; 11 ff., not to one passage especially,20 as those expositors must hold, who limit “mystery.” Since he is speaking of local precedence alone, not of temporal, “written before “cannot be referred to a previous Epistle (CHRYSOSTOM, CALVIN: ferre omnium consensu) as προειρήκαμεν (Gal. 1:9), προλέγω, προεῖπον (Gal. 5:21), point to something spoken at a previous time; so 2 Cor. 13:2; 1 Thess. 3:4; προεγράφη Rom. 15:4 must be understood of a prophetic writing with respect to the future. But Rom. 3:9: προῃτιασάμεθα, as in the present instance, relates to what precedes, in the same Epistle. The explanation: paulo ante (THEODORET, CALVIN, ESTIUS and others) is incorrect.
Eph 3:4. In accordance with which, while reading, ye can perceive.—ΙΙρὸς ὃ δύνασθε—νοῆσαι must at all events be joined together. ΙΙρός with the accusative denotes the measure (Rom. 8:18) as well as the norm (2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 2:14). Comp. WINER, p. 378. The relative ὅ refers to what was written briefly before, as the measure by which to reckon, on which to measure; hoc non refertur præcise ad PAUCIS, sed ad totum noëma et πρός notat analogiam ex ungue leonem (BENGEL). Accordingly it is not to be applied merely to what was written before (MEYER: προέγραψα), or to ἐν ὀλίγῳ (STIER); nor is it=prout (JEROME), nor= ἐν ᾡ̄ (KOPPE), nor= ἐξ οὑ̄ (FLATT), since what precedes is neither the source or ground, but can only be the measure. [EADIE prefers the sense “in reference to which,” but “in accordance with” is adopted by ALFORD, ELLICOTT (whose note in loco on this preposition is a marvel of neatness and exactness) and others, favored by HODGE, who adds: “what he had written might be taken as the standard or evidence of his knowledge.”—R.]
With δύνασθε (BENGEL: moderate et liberaliter positum verbum) Paul refers cautiously to the ability which can be affirmed of every one; of the willingness he says nothing, that must come in afterwards. Modestly he points to what they can do, leaving to them the doing, neither commanding nor demanding it. The subject is each and all in the Church. Δύνασθε stands first very properly, since it is the emphatic word. The conditio sine qua non is indeed ἀναγινώσκοντες, reading, while ye read; not attendentes (CALVIN). Nor does he say: άκούοντες, hearing; he conceives of each one reading for himself. The present tense suggests repeated reading (GROTIUS). To the Greek reading [as the word indicates] was a second perception following the first perception of the author; to the Roman and German the immediate thought is of connecting the letters and joining the words (legere, lesen). [The present participle here indicates an act contemporary with that of the perception: while reading.—R.] Νοῆσαι is not exactly equivalent to συνιέναι; they differ as do our “perceive” and “understand.” Comp. Mark 8:17; TITTMANN, Syn. I., p. 191. The readers perceive that which Paul understands. It is not a knowledge possible through reflection (RUECKERT), but a kind of immediate perception (3:20; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:3; Matt. 15:17).21
My understanding in the mystery of Christ.—Τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ.—These words are to be taken together as the object of νοῆσαι (MEYER). Σύνεσις used with σοφία (Col. 1:9), has a πληροφορία (Col. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:7), is vox media (1 Cor. 1:19), and marks an especial knowing, that penetrates and commands its subject, as in the case of a master of the science (Jno. 3:11). “The mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3) is the mystery, which has Christ for its object and purport; Christ Himself is the concrete Divine mystery. Col. 1:27 (MEYER, STIER).22 It is evident that μυστηρίον is not an absolute secret, since there is an “understanding” with respect to it. See 1:9. BEZA: “Optimo vero jure de se ista prædicare apostolum, re ipsa cognoscet, quisquis perspexerit, quam sublimiter et prorsus divine totum illud argumentum ab initio epistolæ pertractarit.” In the connection in which Paul writes, in virtue of his office and by writing labors in and for the Church two things are evident and properly placed together; that he urgently directs the Church to what is written as a standard for their judgment respecting him, as the Apostle, by whom it is said to them, and ascribes to them unconstrained ability and freedom for examination.
Hence the inferences drawn from this passage against the genuineness of the Epistle are inadmissible. It is not necessary that he should refer to his labors among them, since his σύνεσις is under discussion, and both the subject-matter itself and his mode of treating it in this Epistle are well adapted to make them aware of this. 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Jno. 4:6. Comp. Introd. § 5, 2. [See EADIE on the reasons for professing such a knowledge of the mystery. MEYER properly intimates that this verse is worthy of the Apostle (against DE WETTE, SCHWEGLER), and that an imitator would never have written it. In fact an imitator would have probably thought of it as DE WETTE does!—R.]
Eph 3:5. The period and persons concerned in the communication.—Which, ὅ, refers to “the mystery of Christ” (Eph 3:4), not to “the mystery” (Eph 3:3); in which case we should have to regard what follows καθώς as a parenthesis (WETSTEIN, [E. V.], and others). [Dr. HODGE seems disposed to regard Eph 3:4 as a parenthesis, but the relative forms a direct connection. The other construction is an attempt to avoid the difficulty which arises in taking Eph 3:6 as the purport of the “mystery of Christ.”—R.]
In Other generations.—The dative ἑτέραις γενεαῖς, is a temporal qualification, which is of very common occurrence; see WINER, p. 205. So 2:12; Matt. 12:1: τοῖς σάββασι; Luke 13:14: τῷ σαββάτῳ. The word γενεά designates the lineage, the family, Matt. 1:1, 17; also in a spiritual sense, Matt. 17:17; Mark 9:19. Then a generation, Matt. 24:34; Luke 1:48; 21:32; Phil. 2:15; and also an age, Acts 14:16; 15:21; Luke 1:50; Col. 1:26 (ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων καὶ τω̆ν γενεῶν); here the temporal idea is the prominent one, only a shorter period of about 33 years is meant. There is no ground for taking it as=time, era (SCHENKEL); and still greater objection to retaining the meaning: lineage, and taking it as an ordinary dative, so that “the sons of men” is an epexegesis, which sets forth in concreto what is meant by the “generations” (MEYER). The antithesis “now” demands a temporal definition here. Yet it must be noticed, that the word “generations” is chosen on account of the various stages of revelation to the patriarchs, Moses, David and the prophets.
[MEYER, in his 4th edition, gives up his former opinion, adopting the usual view of our word, mainly on the ground that νῦν requires an antithetical temporal qualification here. Still he correctly insists on the meaning “generations,” over against “times” or “periods.” HODGE apparently inclines to the earlier view of MEYER.—The word is used in the LXX. to translate the Hebrew word דּוֹר, which admits of the temporal signification, now generally attached to γενεαῖς in this passage. ELLICOTT remarks that in one case (Isa. 24:22) even יָמִים is thus rendered.—R.]
Was not made known, οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη.—This in distinction from ἀποκαλύφθη is something more general and indefinite. BENGEL: Notificatio per REVELATIONEM (Eph 3:3) Esther fons notificationis per præconium. REVELATIO Esther quiddam specialius; NOTIFICATIO fit ad reliquos etiam auditores, REVELATIO tantum ad prophetas.
To the sons of men, τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.—Only here and in Mark 3:28. Latissima appellatio, causam exprimens ignorantiæ, ortum naturarum (BENGEL, who adds with over nicety: de statu vetere loquitur idiotismo linguæ hebraicæ). The antithesis is found in “His holy apostles and prophets,” which moreover compels us to give prominence to the “need of men born of men” (HARLESS), while ἐν πνεύματι suggests the lack of the regeneration, correlated to revelation (STIER); so that under the term בְּנֵי־אָדָם we must include also the Old Testament men of God, such as Abraham (Gal. 3:8), and even the prophets (Rom. 9:24–29; 15:9–12), whom JEROME would exclude. BENGEL, however, is incorrect, when he says: denotari præcipue PROPHETAS antiques, v. g. Ezechielem, qui sæpe dicitur בֶּן־אָדָם; thus he is described not as a prophet, but as a man born of men. [EADIE thinks the phrase was suggested by the word γενεά. “Sons succeeded fathers, and their sons succeeded them; so that by ‘sons of men’ is signified the successive band of contemporaries whose lives measured these fleeting γενεαί.”—R.]
As it has been now revealed.—Ὡς contrasts now (νῦν) and formerly. On account of this ὡς, we must take οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη as = οὐχ οὕτως ἐγνωρίσθη, “not thus made known,” and supply here in thought: “through their words and works” (CHRYSOSTOM). Comp. Doctr. Notes. It is only asserted that the knowledge of the mystery in former times is not to be regarded as at all equal to the knowledge which now exists; the latter is immeasurably deeper, richer, clearer than the former. It is incorrect to interpret ὡς as=while, and to infer that the mystery was not all known before (BLEEK); that cannot be asserted.
His holy apostles and prophets.—The Apostles are ἅγιοι, because they are Christians; Paul can have no hesitation in affirming of the Apostles, what he had already said of the whole Church (1:1); of course a higher degree is involved here, especially since they, as well as the Old Testament prophets, who are called “holy,” Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:21 (various reading), are termed “prophets.” The Apostles also were of themselves naturally only “the sons of men,” but like the Christians a holy ἐκλογή. “His,” according to the context (Eph 3:2), must be understood of God, and “apostles and prophets,” especially on account of the word “now,” must be interpreted as in 2:20. It is incorrect to regard τοὶς ἁγίοις as qualified by what follows as an appositional phrase. [So LACHMANN, BISPING].
In the Spirit, ἐν πνεύματι, is to be joined with the verb, and defines the modality of the revelation and its communication. It cannot be joined either with “prophets” (CHRYSOSTOM)23 or with “holy” (MEIER), still less with what follows (ERASMUS). It Is not however = διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, 1 Cor. 2:10 (LUTHER: durch den Geist), [E. V., HODGE, ELLICOTT, MEYER], but denotes the life-sphere, within which the revelation is accomplished: one must live in the Spirit to be a partaker in the revelation. BENGEL: cujus donum Novo Testamento reservatum ad Christum glorificandum. The glory of the revelation and the importance of the Apostolic office so overpower Paul here, that he forgets himself altogether.
[OLSHAUSEN: “It is certainly peculiar, that Paul here calls the Apostles, and consequently himself among them, ‘holy Apostles.’ It is going too far when De Wette finds in this a sign of an unapostolic origin of the Epistle; but still the expression remains an unusual one. I account for it to myself thus—that Paul here conceives of the Apostles and Prophets, as a corporation (comp. 4:11), and as such, in their official character, he gives them the predicate ἅγιος, as he names believers, conceived as a whole, ἅγιοι or ἡγιασμένοι, but never an individual.”—R.]
Eph 3:6. The purport of the mystery. That the Gentiles are (εἶναι τὰ̀ ἔθνη).—The infinitive, standing here in emphatic position, is ep-exegetical of μυστήριον, “mystery,” hence not to be joined with “revealed” (FLATT), or with “made known,” nor is εἰς τό to be supplied; and it should not be taken as= γίνεσθαι. [“A mystery is not a secret design, but a secret fact” (ALFORD); hence “are,” not “should be.” So most commentators.—R.]
Fellow-heirs.—Συγκληρονόμα, not as in Rom. 8:17 (Χριστοῦ), but “of the saints” (2:19), the believing Israel. Comp. 1:14, 18; Gal. 3:29. With the saints they are heirs of God (Rom. 8:17), as His children. That is the highest privilege.—Fellow-members [of the same body].—Καὶ σύσσωμα denotes, by means of a peculiarly formed word, the membership in that body, the Head of which is Christ (1:23; 2:12, 16).—Fellow-partakers of the promise, καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας. [See Textual Note6]. This denotes participation in the promise (1:13; 2:12; Gal. 3:14), the fulfilment of which is already begun, but by no means completed as yet; βασιλεία γὰρ ἔπήγγελται παρὰ τοῦ πατρός (ŒCUMEN.). It refers neither in general to res or bona promissa, nor in particular to the Holy Ghost alone, as BENGEL, [EADIE] and STIER think, who find a reference to the Head, Christ, in “fellow-members,” and to the Father in “fellow-heirs,” and thus to the Trinity as in 4:4–6, 18, 21, 30; 5:1, 2, 18; 2 Cor. 13:13. There is as little ground for this as there is indication of a climax (JEROME, PELAGIUS, SCHENKEL: heir, possessor, partaker). For “fellow-heir” comprises the whole, on the ground of the relation to God as a Father, who has prepared an inheritance for His children; the two added terms respect their relation among each other: the first arising from the relation of the community to which dependence attaches, me other springing directly from the personality regarded as self-inclusive; the first marks the membership in the Church, the relation to it, the second the independence of the individuals, their relation in and of itself. Hence it cannot be said, that what is already sufficiently expressed by the term “fellow-heir,” is repeated twice afterwards, once figuratively and the second time literally (MEYER), or that Paul creatively rummaged in the language (KALMIS), or that the first term contains a personal and substantive reference (HARLESS), which is further indicated by the other two. [ELLICOTT’S view resembles that of Braune, but is more clearly expressed: “The general fact of the συνκληρονομία is re-asserted, both in its outward and inward relations. The Gentiles were fellow-heirs with the believing Jews in the most unrestricted sense: they belonged to the same corporate body, the faithful; they shared to the full in the same spiritual blessings: the ἐπαγγελία.”—R.]
In Christ Jesus through the Gospel.—“In Christ Jesus,” defines “are” more closely and, like this, relates to all three of the preceding words. It cannot be joined with “promise” (KOPPE, BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS). Thus Paul indicates that all is communicated only in Him, the God-man. Hence “through the Gospel” is added, in order to point to the means by which that objectively given in Christ, already proffered and prepared, is brought to the individual, is presented for his subjective appropriation. Because Paul is speaking of his office and calling, he must add this also.
The ministry and unworthiness of the recipient; Eph 3:7, 8 a.
Eph 3:7. Whereof I became a minister [οὑ̄ ἐγενήθην διάκονος].—“Whereof” refers to “Gospel” (Col. 1:23, 25).—Διάκονος; (Col. 1:7) is a synonym of ὑπηρέτης (1 Cor. 4:1; Matt. 26:58; Mark 14:54, 65; Jno. 7:32, 45 f., etc.); and according to its etymology (διὰ—κόνις,24 dust), like the latter (ὑπὸ—ἐρέτης, rower), designates a servant of a lower order, while οἰκόνομος (1 Cor. 4:1; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10) denotes one as related to the property, συνεργός (1 Cor. 3:9; 1 Thess. 3:2), as related to the works of his Master, δοῦλος (6:6; Col. 4:12; Rom. 1:1; 6:16; 1 Cor. 7:21; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1), in his dependence, on his Master, λειτουργός (Rom. 13:6; 15:16) in his devotion. It is incorrect to assert that διάκονος describes the servant in his activity for the service, ὑπερέτης in that for his Master (HARLESS). [See MEYER and ELLICOTT against HARLESS].—Ἐγενήθην marks more strongly than ἐγεςόμην [Rec.] his becoming a servant, refers to a development, even if not as ŒCUMENIUS (οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐγὼ ἔργον ἐμὸν συνεισήνεγκα τῇ χάριτι ταύτῃ), RUECKERT and others think; that thought is found in the context, not in the word.
According to the gift of the grace of God [κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τὴς χάριτος τοῦθεοῦ].—Κατά marks the fact that Paul’s becoming a minister of the Gospel had for its norm the grace of God. Δωρεά (4:7; Rom. 5:17), the single gift, like δῶρον (2:8), marks the free present. “The grace of God” sets forth the nature, purport of the gift. [The genitive is one of apposition or identity; the grace was the gift.—R.] LUTHER accordingly is incorrect: according to the gift out of grace, as if this were the source, the dispenser, while the gift itself was something else, such as the gift of tongues (GROTIUS), the Holy Ghost (A-LAPIDE, FLATT). It is in accordance with the context to think of the Apostolic office [HODGE, EADIE]; but the grace of God, which Paul had received, prepared him for this; He cannot use for His service persons as they are. He must convert and transform them for this end (2:10).
Which was given to me.—TISCHENDORF retains τὴν δοθεῖσαν in spite of the Cod. Sin. [See Textual Note9. The received reading makes “given” agree with “gift;” the other with “grace,” the sense being the same in either case.—R.]
According to the working of his power [κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ].—”According to the working” (1:19) marks that the gift has been bestowed, not according to the receptivity of the recipient, but according to the efficiency of the Giver. [This prepositional clause depends on τῆς δοθείσης μοι, defining the mode of giving. This justifies the seeming tautology: “the gift given to me.” MEYER, whom ELLICOTT cites in favor of connecting the phrase with the leading verb, now adopts this simpler view. Dr. HODGE accepts without remark the incorrect rendering of the E. V., which, not content with the instrumental sense it imposes so frequently on ἑν, here gives κατά the same sense: by.—R.] “Of His power” gives prominence to God’s power, and throws Paul’s person into the back-ground; yet recalls the fact, as he himself does in Eph 3:8, that it is precisely the persecutor who has become an Apostle, the narrow-minded, proud Pharisee who has been transformed into the most large-hearted and humble servant of the Gospel to the Gentiles (STIER). CALVIN: In hoc dono prædicat Dei potentiam, ac si diceret: nolite respicere, quid sim meritus, quia dominus ultro mihi sua liberalitate hoc contulit, ut sim apostolus gentium, non mea, dignitate, sed ejus gratia. Nolite etiam respicere qualis fuerim; nam domini est, homines nihili extollere. Hæc est potentiæ ejus efficacia, ex nihilo grande aliquid efficere.
Eph 3:8. To me, who am less than the least, ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ.—The pronoun in the dative stands first, somewhat remarkably; we might rather expect: αὕτη ἡ χάρις ἐδόθη τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων, this very grace is grace to less than the least of all. But the pronoun refers to Eph 3:1, and must be joined with it. It is scarcely possible that after the grammatical and logical conclusion of the sentence begun in Eph 3:1 (Eph 3:7: τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοὺ) another entirely new sentence should begin in Eph 3:8, only to introduce a parenthetical thought, especially as the sentence closes with Eph 3:12, beyond which the supposed parenthesis must be continued. [The objections to this view of the connection will be found in my note at the close of Eph 3:1. Dr. Braune’s difficulty suggested above is not so singular in a writer like Paul as the resumption by means of a dative. As regards the logical connection, ELLICOTT remarks: “No addition was required to the former period; the great Apostle however so truly, so earnestly felt his own weakness and nothingness (2 Cor. 12:11), that the mention of God’s grace towards him awakens within, by the forcible contrast it suggests, not only the remembrance of his former persecutions of the Church (1 Cor. 15:9, 10), but of his own sinful nature (1 Tim. 1:15) and unworthiness for so high an office.” The transition always seems natural to one who is familiar with Paul’s modes of thought.—R.]
STIER attempts to transfer the double comparative into the German: dem Gerinsteren. BENGEL: Notio nominis PAULUS cumulata per comparativum superlativo superiorem; quo se sanctis vix accenset; elegantissima modestia. A similar double comparative is found in 3 Jno. 4: μειζοτέραν. Comp. WINER, p. 67, where he compares the Latin minimissimus, pessimissimus. [To this we may add excelsior, now almost naturalized in English; a word constructed precisely like Paul’s double comparative. The rendering of the E. V. cannot be improved.—R.] Comp. 1 Cor. 15:9: ἐλάχιστος τῶς ἀποστόλων. Here he cannot sufficiently express himself; here he speaks of the service of the Gospel in general. Accordingly he adds:
Of all saints, πάντων ἅγίων, i.e. Christians; he does not say of “Apostles,” nor yet “of men,” two interpretations, the latter of which is designed to exclude angels, without any ground. According to Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13, Paul’s persecution of the Church of Christ is the strongest expression of sin in him, so that, according to the context, compared with all Christians, he regards himself as the most unworthy, because he is conscious of his sin and guilt, feeling that since God’s grace has helped him, there is no one whom it cannot and may not help.
Was this grace given, ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις αὕτη.—This is the grace which lies at the foundation of his vocation as Apostle (STIER), not the Apostolic office itself (RUECKERT).—Αὕτη, “this,” points forward to what follows, which sets forth wherein this grace consists. What he has set forth in Eph 3:6 as the purport of the mystery, as the mission of the Apostles in general, he now represents as that which is committed to him. There is not therefore here a parenthesis and exclamation of joy: “to me less than the least, is this grace given!” so that what follows is to be joined with “gift,” Eph 3:7 (HARLESS); for Eph 3:2–12 do not form an interpolation, but the sentence begun in Eph 3:1 is entirely broken off, and αὕτη does not refer to what precedes, nor is 2:6 to be compared with this construction.
The magnitude of the mission; Eph 3:8 b, 9.
Eph 3:8 b. To preach to the Gentiles [τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι.—“An explanatory and partly appositional clause,” ELLICOTT.—R.] The infinitive here sets forth the mission of the gift of grace, as in Eph 3:6 it indicated the purport of the mystery. See WINER, p. 298. The dative, which in accordance with the context stands first for emphasis, is a more difficult reading than if ἐν were inserted, as in Gal. 1:16. [See Textual Note10.] Yet to Paul was committed the task of preaching to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:16; 2:8; 1 Tim. 2:7; Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:17), not merely among the Gentiles; he should do what he could, the completed solution of the problem belongs to God.
The unsearchable riches of Christ, τὸ ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτος τοῦ Χριστοῦ.—THEODORET is excellent: καὶ πῶς κηρύττεις, εἴπερ ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνεξιχνίαστος; Τοῦτο γὰρ αὐτο, φησι, κηρύττω, ὅτι ἀνεξιχνίαστος. Rom. 11:32. “Of Christ” is not an abbreviated form for the grace, the goodness of Christ, but refers rather to the fulness of the glory (HARLESS). [ALFORD: “The fulness of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption—all centred and summed up in Him.”—R.] BUCER: Jam evangelium exponit investgabiles divitias Christi, non illas quidem, quas nemo nostrum percipere potest, sic enim frustra prædicaretur nobis evangelium; sed quod quisque pro modulo dono suo tantum percipiat opum cœlestium, quantum ad salutem, consequendam satis est. There is ever indeed an immeasurable remainder, and poor needy souls seek in vain to exhaust it (Berlenburger Bible). Comp. Eph 3:19; 1 Cor. 13:9–12. [Exhaustless “both in its nature, extent and application” (ELLICOTT).—R.]
Eph 3:9. And to make all see, καὶ φωτίσαι πάντας.—This adds to “preach,” a further task of the Apostle, which is accomplished by means of the preaching of the gospel; what the gospel can do (2 Cor. 4:4: τὸν φωτισμον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου) this the evangelizing Apostle effects, whose word enlightens as a “word of prophecy,” which is a “light shining in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). He is bidden “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). See 1:18; Heb. 6:4; 10:32; Ps. 119:130. The object is “all,” which according to the context, means the Gentiles hearing him; there is no reference to the Jews (PELAGIUS, HARLESS, STIER), since πάντας, “all,” following the emphatic τοῖς ἐθνεσιν (Eph 3:8) cannot receive any emphasis. Since, however, no such accusative as “eyes” is added, the verb “enlighten” refers to the whole man, spirit, heart, conscience, not merely to the perceptive faculty (SCHENKEL), nor is it =docere (BENGEL). It is more than “make known,” almost equivalent to ἀποκάλυψις, revelation (STIER).25 As to what he enlightens the Gentiles then follows:
What is the dispensation of the mystery, τίς ἡ οἰκονομίατοῦ μυστηρίου.—See on 1:9, 10. The “mystery” here is not merely the calling of the Gentiles (Eph 3:6), but as in 2:3; here “the actual accomplishment of the plan hitherto formed in secret” (STIER) is treated of. [HODGE favors the same view. ELLICOTT: “The dispensation (arrangement, regulation) of the mystery (the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, Eph 3:6), which was to be humbly traced and acknowledged in the fact of its having secretly existed in the primal counsels of God, and now having been revealed to the heavenly powers by means of the Church.” So MEYER, ALFORD and most. See on Eph 3:3, however.—R.]
Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God who created all things [τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ θεῷ τῷ τά πάντα κτίσαντι].—Τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμένου, is like σεσιγημένου Rom. 16:25; comp. 1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 1:26. It has been hid ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων (Col. 1:26;= ἀπʼ αἰῶνος, Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; in ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος, Jno. 9:32), since the ages, from the beginning of the same; since there were men and angels, it has been revealed to none of them; before that there was no one, from whom it could be hid (MEYER). It was concealed “in God who created all things.” Thus God is marked as the Creator of the universe with all that therein is, of heaven and earth. BENGEL: Antitheton ad creaturas, etiam excellentissimas, Eph 3:10. There is no ground for limiting “all things,” and referring it either to the moral creation26 (CALVIN, GROTIUS, MORUS, and others), which is forbidden both by the meaning of the word and by the aorist (κτίσας), or to the moral world (HOLZHAUSEN). Evidently, however, Redemption and creation are thus placed in relation and connection with each other; BENGEL takes the latter as fundamentum omnis reliquiæ œconomiæ, pro protestate Dei universali liberrimæ dispensatæ; STIER regards the former as fundamentum creationis rerum omnium, even of angels. We can and must join together Creation and Redemption, as decrees, dare not separate them, even though the act of creation self-evidently precedes the act of Redemption and the acts of revelation, and is ordered with a view to these.
[The only question that arises in regard to this passage is this, Why is the creation introduced in this connection? HODGE deems it a mere expression of reverence, but this is unsatisfactory. ALFORD thinks the fact here expressed “involves His perfect right to adjust all things as He will,” thus the concealment is justified (so RUECKERT). To this MEYER properly objects, that there is no logical connection of this kind, and ELLICOTT says: “A reference to God’s omniscience would more suitably have justified the concealment.” OLSHAUSEN’S view, that Redemption is itself a creative act seems equally irrelevant. It is either added to enhance the idea of God’s omnipotence (ELLICOTT), or better with MEYER, EADIE, and others, to indicate that God in creating the world included in His purpose and arrangement that development which forms the purport of the mystery.—R.]
The end with a glance at the final cause and also at the present; Eph 3:10–12.
Eph 3:10. To the intent that now, etc.—Upon what ἵνα depends will be best determined after the whole verse has been explained. Τνωρισθῆ νῦν is the order in the Greek, hence the former word is emphatic and corresponds with “hath been hid,” just as “now” does with “from the beginning.” Comp. WINER, p. 269. [We might render: “In order that there might be made known now,” (the last word having a secondary emphasis).—R.]
Unto the principalities and powers, ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις.—Thus the objects, to which it is made known, are marked as of importance. See 1:21. [The repetition of the article adds solemnity without distinguishing two classes.—R.]
In the heavenly places, ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, describes them more closely as to locality (comp. 1:3); hence they are not earthly and human, either heathen priests, Jewish rulers or Christian church authorities, but angels, and good angels, who desire to look into these things (1 Pet. 1:12). CALVIN: Quid enim egregium de evangelio prædicaret apostolus aut de gentium vocatione, si nunc primum diabolus innotuisse diceret? The context does not permit us to apply the terms to bad angels (AMBROSIASTER), nor even to consider them as included (BENGEL, OLSHAUSEN, HOFMANN, Schriftbeweis, I. p. 361 f., BLEEK), since it treats of a designed making known of the wisdom of God to His praise.27 That Paul did not concisely say “angels,” arises from the fact that here, as in 1:21, he wishes to give prominence to their power and elevation, here to glorify the Church, as there to glorify Christ, hence the agency of angels in the world of nations is not indicated (HOFMANN). In order to mark that a cosmical relation is under discussion here as in 1:10, the “powers” are termed ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. This added phrase is so joined with “principalities and powers” as to form a single conception; hence does not indicate the modality of the verb “made known” (MATTHIES). This is done by the next phrase.
Through the church, διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας.—This is the theatre of the glory of God, of the Divine works (BENGEL), see 1 Cor. 4:9. It is a communion in heaven and on earth, the militant and triumphant church, and as such an object of interest to the good angels (Matth. 18:10; Luke 15:7, 10; 1 Cor. 11:10; Heb. 1:14). LUTHER renders: an die Gemeinde, on the church, which does not accurately present the means employed, as it makes of the church only an object of observation or a place of instruction, while the preposition διά presents it as an instructress, who makes known, not in words indeed, but by acts, conduct and character.
The manifold wisdom of God, ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ.—ΙΙοίκιλος occurs with νόσοις, Matth. 4:24; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40, with ἐπιθυμίαις 2 Tim. 3:6, with ἡδοναῖς Tit. 3:3, with δυνάμεσι Heb. 2:4, with διδαχαῖς Heb. 13:9, with πειρασμοῖς Jas. 1:2: 1 Pet. 1:6, with χάριτος 1 Pet. 4:10; 3:7 (various reading) and means “various;” so that the special word πολυποίκιλος, occurring only here means multifarious, strengthening the idea of “manifold.” Accordingly it cannot be =very wise (KOPPE), nor mean merely the wisdom which adjusts the antagonism between law and grace (HARLESS), but it refers “to those wondrous ways operating on the Church” of that God “who imparts reconciliation and actually edifies the church” (So STIER, who incorrectly limits it to the Holy Ghost), to the different treatment of different men, the various means He employs, so that He is “to each eternally another and yet to each eternally the same” (LAVATER). Rom. 11:33, 34. The “wisdom” is indeed one, it is only its manifestation that is so manifold (ANSELM); certainly it is not that of Gnosticism (BAUR). What is said of the Old Testament in Heb. 1:1 (“sundry times and divers mannners”) is true in the highest degree of the New Testament economy.
[ALFORD: “It is all one in sublime unity of truth and purpose: but cannot be apprehended by finite minds in this its unity, and therefore is by Him variously portioned out to each finite race and finite capacity of individuals—so that the Church is a mirror of God’s wisdom—chromatic, so to speak, with the rainbow colors of that light which in itself is one and undivided.” ELLICOTT: “The variety of the Divine counsels, which nevertheless all mysteriously co-operated toward a single end—the call of the Gentiles, and salvation of mankind by faith in Jesus Christ.” “That the holy angels are capable of a specific increase of knowledge, and of a deepening insight into God’s wisdom, seems from this passage clear and incontrovertible.”—R.]
It is evident then that this clause of design depends with its ἵνα on the clause: “What is the dispensation of the mystery.” The arrangement, management and guidance of this edifice (οἶκον νέμειν) is of precisely that kind (τίς), so planned, that (ἵνα) through the church as a collection of believing saints out of every land and condition the wisdom of God should in continued acts become perceptible and manifest to the participant and active angelic world in the most multifarious manner; that is the purpose of the “dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning hath been hid in God who created all things.” The mystery has not been hid from the ages, in order that God’s wisdom might be revealed later (MEYER, SCHENKEL, [EADIE] BLEEK), nor has God created all things, that this might be made known through the Church (HARLESS); this purpose and design does not form a closer definition of “mystery” nor of “God,” but of His “economy.” Nor is the ground of this purpose found in the task set before the Apostle Paul (STIER), his preaching and enlightening, but in that which he has to preach and about which he has to enlighten, which remains after him and his labor, upon which he entered as fellow-laborer; hence in the economy of God itself.
[This view of Braune is certainly plausible, but it is not preferable to that which he mentions last, viz., that this verse is joined with the “preaching” and “enlightening” of Eph 3:8, 9 (so OLSHAUSEN, DE WETTE, HOFMANN, HODGE, ELLICOTT, ALFORD, who however thinks the reference is to ἐδόθη, if one word must be singled out). The objection that this ascribes too much to Paul’s own preaching (MEYER) is scarcely valid in view of the current of thought and the fact that the “manifold wisdom” did manifest itself through the preaching of the Apostle to the Gentiles. OLSHAUSEN: “Paul contrasts the greatness of his vocation with his personal nothingness, and he therefore traces the design, of his mission through different steps. First, he says, he had to preach to the heathen; then to enlighten all concerning the mystery; and both, in order to manifest even to angels the infinite wisdom of God.”—To take ἵνα as ecbatic is altogether inadmissible. The connection with “created” is accepted by some who adopt the longer reading and refer this then to the moral creation. HARLESS however adopts the same connection in a supralapsarian sense. As this is the only passage in the New Testament which can be made to assert this view, it may be here remarked: (1) This is singular and involves a theory of creation which, however logical, becomes too terrific to be admitted on the strength of a doubtful exegesis. (2) It joins a marked final clause to a participle which depends on another participle which depends on an infinitive which depends on a leading verb. (3) The present manifestation is the end of a present operation, viz., the preaching and making known. (4) The end of creation is distinctly stated in Col. 1:16 to be the personal Christ: εἰς αὐτόν, “Unto Him,” as causa finalis, “all things were created.”—R.]
Eph 3:11. According to the eternal purpose, κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων, evidently defines “might be made known,” not “manifold” (ANSELM), nor “wisdom” (KOPPE), certainly not Eph 3:3 and 5 (FLATT). The making known takes place according to the purpose “before the foundation of the world” (1:3). The genitive marks the relation to the ages, that this purpose will be retained during these, will remain in force and regulate them. Col. 1:20: αἶμα τοῦ σταυροῦ, 2 Cor. 11:26: κίνδυνοι ποταμῶν are similar; see WINER, p. 176. [ALFORD: “The genitive is apparently one of time, as when we say it has been an opinion of years:” “The duration all that time giving the αἰῶνες a kind of possession. If so, the sense is best given in English by ‘eternal,’ as in E. V.” ELLICOTT: “The purpose which pertained to, existed in, was determined on in the ages.” Two things we may hold fast to: (1) The general correctness of the rendering “eternal.” (2) The utter groundlessness of any Gnostic reference.—R.]
Which he wrought in Christ Jesus.—Ἡν ἐποίησεν refers of course to πρόθεσιν, not to σοφία (LUTHER: which He has shown), nor to ἐκκλησία (ERASMUS): ΙΙρόθεσιν ποιεῖν means either to form a purpose (Rev. 17:17; γνώμην ποιεῖν, Mark 15:1: συμβούλιον ποιεῖν), or to execute one. The context points to the carrying out, which is however just begun: the mystery has already become clear in the gospel, it is no longer as before, and Eph 3:12, with its emphatic “we have,” gives prominence to the present time. Hence it is incorrect to render: “which He purposed” (CALVIN, RUECKERT, HARLESS, HOFMANN, Schriftbeweis, 1 p. 230); in that case we would find the verb in the middle voice (ἐποιήσατο), which is used in a periphrasis like this (WINER, p. 240).28 To combine the two (STIER) is altogether improper; we must choose one or the other.—“In” denotes, that outside of Him who existed before all (Χριστῷ) and has now become incarnate (Ἰησοῦ) and without Him God’s purpose is not accomplished.
The added: Our Lord, τῷ κυρίῷ ἡμῶν, pointing to the time of His appearing, is added on account of the ἐκκλησία, the ἡμῶν, whose Head and Lord is Jesus the Christ. [ALFORD is forced by his view of the verb to apply the whole to Christ in His pre-existence, which is very unusual.—R.] It is now explicable why the angels through such a church obtain wider knowledge of God’s wisdom. At the same time the phrase introduces what follows.
Eph 3:12. In whom we have, ἐν ᾡ ἔχομεν.—[The relative has here a slightly demonstrative and explanatory force (MEYER, ELLICOTT).—R.] Here “we” evidently means those who are really in Him; our fellowship with Him is the fundamental thought. For the gifts which are afterwards mentioned, do not inhere in Him, as do Truth, Love, Life, but are states of mind resulting from fellowship with Him or ripened relations.
Our boldness and our access in confidence [τὴν παῤῥησίαν καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει. See Textual Note13.—On the first term see my remarks on Jno. 2:28, LANGE’S Comm., p. 82.29 It is used by Paul besides in 6:19; Col. 2:15; Phil. 1:20; 2 Cor. 3:12; 7:4; 1 Tim. 3:13; Philem. 8; and is found in Heb. 3:6; 4:16; 10:19, 35. Here it means the free, joyous spirit of the redeemed, and must not be limited either to libertas dicendi (VATABLE), or to prayer (BENGEL). Καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει, “our access in confidence,” forms a single conception; the last term is not to be joined with “boldness;” for that does not require as a closer definition what it has essentially in itself. “Access” (2:18) however requires it, since this may be feeble, timid, anxious, uncertain of acceptance.30 The “confidence” (πεποίθησις, only in Phil. 3:4; 2 Cor. 1:15; 3:4; 8:22; 10:2), which expresses itself after the boldness (comp. Rom. 8:38, 39 with 31–37), is the childlike confidence in which the subject of grace approaches God. The phrase, therefore, is not to be joined, with “we have” (MEYER, SCHENKEL). [The latter view of the connection is adopted by ELLICOTT and ALFORD. While the other is admissible, there seems to be a gain in thought from joining it with the verb; see below—R. ]
Through our faith in Him [διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ].—The preposition marks that by means of which the fellowship we have with Him is brought about, and is a closer definition of ἔχομεν, “we have.” Τὴς πίστεως αὐτοῦ (only in 4:13) like Rom. 3:22, Gal. 3:22, means faith on Him, viz., on Him, in whom “we have,” etc., on “Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). This faith is the subjective means of the union and the continued fellowship (Rom. 5:1, 2). [ELLICOTT taking “in confidence” as a predication of manner defining the tone and frame of mind in which the “access” is enjoyed and realized, makes the following distinctions between the three qualifying phrases: “in whom” makes the objective ground of the possession, “through our faith in Him” the subjective medium by which, and “in confidence” the subjective state in which it is apprehended. EADIE: “That faith whose object is Jesus is the means to all who are Christ’s, first, of ‘boldness,’ for their belief in the Divine Mediator gives them courage; secondly of ‘access,’ for their realization of His glorified humanity warrants and enables them to approach the throne of grace; and thirdly these blessings are possessed ‘in confidence,’ for they feel that for Christ’s sake their persons and services will be accepted by the Father.”—R.]
Eph 3:13. Conclusion. Wherefore I beseech διὸ αἰτοῦμαι:—This refers to Eph 3:12 (“we have our boldness and our access”); he proves this in petition, of course, to God. [ See below however.] The middle voice, upon which however too great stress must not be laid (Col. 1:9; Jas. 1:6), denotes the praying for himself.
[ The reference seems rather to be to the whole paragraph: “Since I am the appointed minister of so great a matter” (ALFORD; so EADIE, ELLICOTT and now MEYER). The other view is perfectly grammatical, but joins this verse to a secondary thought, while the wider reference brings us back, as if the steps were being retraced, to Eph 3:1: “the prisoner of Jesus Christ in behalf of you Gentiles,” the next verse passing further back to “for this cause.”—R.]
Not to faint, μὴ ἐγκακεῖν.—[Dr. Braune’s rendering is: I pray (God) not to become dispirited, i.e., that I become not dispirited; others I pray (God) that you faint not; while most accept the view which supplies ὑμᾶς as the object of the verb and the subject of the infinitive: “I beseech you not to faint.” See below.—R.] The subject according to the context, especially “in my tribulations,” is the Apostle. It is precisely the result of his prayer to God and his intercourse with Him that he is courageous and in high-hearted joy even in tribulations.—In my tribulations for you [ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν].—The word θλίψις definitely shows that the subject is the Apostle; so does the expression ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, which is to be closely joined with θλἰψεσ́ν μου. Accordingly Paul does not ask the readers not to faint (Vulgate, LUTHER, MEYER, BLEEK, and many others), but prays to God for himself.
[ This view of the verse is supported by such able commentators as BENGEL, RUECKERT, HARLESS (who however altogether joins unwarrantably joins ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν with αἰτοῦμαι) OLSHAUSEN, TURNER, BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS, and is favored by the Syriac version, THEODORET and JEROME. Still the majority of commentators from CHRYSOSTOM to the latest English expositors, reject it. With good reason too, for (1) it seems unpauline to insert such a prayer here; he rejoiced in suffering (Col. 1:29) and gloried in infirmity (2 Cor. 11:30), and was speaking of high privilege little likely to suggest faint-heartedness in himself. (2) The next clause presents, a motive (MEYER), which is irrelevant if the prayer is for himself. (3) Notwithstanding Braune’s remark, μου would be superfluous in that case. (4) Grammatically it is far simpler to supply ὑμᾶς as the object of the finite verb and the subject of the infinitive, than to supply θεόν as the object and then ἐμέ as subject—accusative; two words necessary to define the thought would scarcely be omitted, and the view we oppose necessarily requires two different words. If, as is natural, only one is to be supplied, that one must be ὑμᾶς.—Ἐν therefore denotes the sphere in which the faint-heartedness of the Ephesians might possibly be shown (ELLICOTT); the article is not necessary before ὑπέρ, since the close connection of thought is similar to that in Eph 3:1: “prisoner for you Gentiles.”—R.]
Which are your glory [ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν].—Ἥτις put for αἵτινες by the attraction δόξα ὑμῶν (WINER, pp. 157, 505). The tribulations of the Apostle for the church are the honor, fame and glory of the same; it would be a detriment, distress and disgrace to the church, to have a founder and leader, who in tribulations became discouraged and despondent; but they confess a faith, for the proclamation of which the Apostles must bear heavy sorrow, yet compared with which sorrows are not to be dreaded, and they have a leader, whom they may joyously and confidently follow. This clause is not to be referred to “faint not” (HARLESS, SCHENKEL and others), nor is it to be left-indefinite in an oratorical sense (RUECKERT). It is thus that he prays first for himself (Eph 3:13) and then (Eph 3:14) for the Ephesians (RHEUFELD). Thus he closes the section concerning himself and his office, in order to pass to a supplication for the church.
[The reference of this clause to “tribulations” is to be maintained and is best indicated by restoring the plural form in English: which are (seeing that they are) your glory. The view of Braune stands or falls with that taken of the former part of the verse. It must be apparent that the other explanation is more satisfactory here. ELLICOTT well remarks too: “Glory accrued to the Ephesians from the official dignity, not the personal dignity of the sufferer.” Both because God so loved them as to give His Son first, and then to send His servants to suffering, (CHRYSOSTOM) and because these tribulations were the tokens of the freedom of the gospel (EADIE), are these “your glory.” He has now returned to his starting-point (Eph 3:1), and resumes the thought there broken off in Eph 3:14.—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The idea of substitution is more ethical than doctrinal, and finds a sphere in the whole human life, in its narrowest and widest circles. The Apostle suffers for his Church; his suffering is for her advantage. So the child lives at the expense of its parents; the child for whom no one suffers is a miserable creature, and the parents who do not suffer for their child, nor take sorrow on themselves to avert them from their offspring, are no true parents. So benefactors suffer for their wards, and suffering for them, remove their pain and need. So the shepherds of the people. The suffering of human life is in its widest range vicarious. Where this really exists, without some subtle selfishness, there it is without vanity, desire to please, ambition or vain-glory, there, just as one does his duty to his neighbor, faithful in the least, does he also bear and with joy dares suffer! And it is just he who has felt the truth of the vicarious sufferings of Jesus Christ, who can thus do. The Romanists acknowledge such vicarious suffering only in the case of the saints, we find it in all departments of our social life. As Paul was a martyr, so is every teacher, every mother. But they are only martyrs, i.e., witnesses of the everlasting mercy and the everlasting redemption, Christ Jesus is the author of redemption, the mediator of mercy.
2. The official service in the Church. On this subject this section contains important suggestions of various kinds.
a. First of all Paul feels that he is “the prisoner of Christ Jesus:” he has orders, powers, duties, rights and authority from the Master; quum verbum Christi—porrigunt (ministri), Christi vice et loco porrigunt (Apology Aug. Conf. Art. vii. viii. § 28), non repræsentant suam personam (the same, § 47).
b. The office is a gift of grace (Eph 3:2, 7); beneficium seu gratia, non judicium seu lex (Apology, vi. § 6); it stands and falls with the church, so that “a priority attaches neither to the church before the office, nor to the office before the church; rather the office has never existed without the church, as the church has never existed without the office” (HARNACK, Die Kirche, ihr Amt, ihr Regiment, § 41).
c. The office must be distinguished from the general calling of Christians as a special call of the church, but not separated from it (“less than the least of all saints,” Eph 3:8); there is no specific difference, and the ministers of the church remain members of the body of Christ, just as the private Christian does; both belong together and are included in the organism of the church. Hence the communicative “we have” (Eph 3:12). Here however is the distinction of the New Testament office, that it is not united with a class, family, or with definite persons, like that of the Old Testament. It is filled from among the “saints.”
d. In its nature the office is a διακονία (Eph 3:7: οὖ ἐγενόμην διάκονος), ministerium, not a lordship; the free inquiry of the individual member in private must not be abridged (Eph 3:4). “For the Apostles did not receive a mandatum cum libera, i.e., an entirely free and unlimited authority and power, but a certain [i.e., definite] authority (Apology, xiv. § 18).
e. The gift of this office is God’s Word, and its task is the preaching of the same: “Gospel” (Eph 3:6), “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, to make all see what is the dispensation of the mystery” (Eph 3:8, 9); hence we must not preach our own words! So far it is juris Divini, belonging to the economy of salvation as a continuation of the apostolic ministry; not however of the ‘apostolate31 with apostolic dignity and authority, for the Apostles as persons have no successors. For this office too we must distinguish the empirical establishment of church offices, which is a matter of ecclesiastical regulation and juris humani. [These principles are of great importance, but the trouble has been that “ecclesiastical regulation” exalted itself to such a degree as to assert for its creatures the jus Divinum.—R.]
f. The equipment for and in this office is the work of the Holy Ghost, who vouchsafes the “revelation” (Eph 3:3), in whom the mystery is revealed (Eph 3:5), who furnishes the necessary “knowledge” (Eph 3:4).
g. Oral preaching and the Holy Scriptures belong together (“ye have heard,” Eph 3:2; “when ye read,” Eph 3:4) in the Apostle’s method, just as the congregation should hear and read, both in public and in private.
h. This office lays claim to the person of the minister, not merely to his strength and his time; the office is not conferred upon him just as he is; it does not make demands upon him merely when an official discharge of duty is concerned. Hence the Apostle says: “I became” (Eph 3:7), “the grace to God which was given to me (Eph 3:2, 7, 8)” according to the working of his power (Eph 3:7), so that he who is “less than the least” (Eph 3:8) has still “boldness” and “access with confidence” (Eph 3:12). [Comp. here the note of EADIE, p. 231, from BAXTER’S Reformed Pastor.—
3. As regards Revelation, Paul only declares, that it was actually the possession of himself and the Apostles (Eph 3:3, 5). We find moreover at the same time an expression of the necessity of revelation: “the mystery” would never have become “the gospel,” had the Apostles been wanting in that understanding and clearness necessary to preach and explain the mystery. Evidently the personal intercourse of the Apostles with the Lord was not sufficient for this purpose, they needed the revealing Spirit, just as Paul required the appearance of the Lord. Nothing is said respecting the mode of revelation in the Apostles, except that it did not consist in a single act, but in a continuous one, which could have its pauses and its ebbings, but never ceased entirely. In the church however, it is plainly stated (Eph 3:6), the revelation respecting the “mystery” is mediated “through the gospel,” and is therefore joined with the words of the preached gospel.
4. Hence there results the duty of the private Christian, neither to absent himself from the common public service, so that he may hear, nor to neglect private closet worship, so as to read. Upon this is based the obligation of the church to circulate the Scriptures through the agency of Bible Societies, and the crime of the Roman pontiff in forbidding and hindering this.32 “The old complaint continues still: sed nos non habemus aures, sicût Deus linguam (STIER).
5. The difference in the Holy Scriptures. Old and New Testament, are defined in Eph 3:5, very much according to the saying of Augustine; et in vetere novum latet, et in novo vetus patet. Both treat of the “mystery,” which is the purport of the gospel, as it was the subject of prophecy. The difference is only in clearness respecting this; the former lacks it, the latter possesses it. In the former the full universal idea of the gospel lies hidden, as, in a bud, in enigmatical visions and figures. The hope of the Old Testament prophets had not that clearness of understanding which belongs to the New Testament Apostles and congregations, but the intensity of the consciousness of salvation and of the sense of God’s mercy was not less then than afterwards, hence not less perfect in itself, only less distinct in form and expression; so that we may in the light of the gospel and the adult church understand the prophets of the Old Testament better than they did themselves, and yet be not more perfect than they. Hence we can only say with JEROME: aliud est in spiritu ventura cognoscere, aliud ea cernere opera completa, or with CALOVIUS: distinguendum inter cognitionem generalem et specialem. The contrast of the Old and New Testament is not under discussion, as HARLESS remarks, but that bestowal of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, which introduced them into the entire already existing truth of redemption, and which was accordingly something actually different from the previous inspiration.
6. Carefully as the Apostle demands the reading of what he has written (ver 4; “while reading,” etc.), he yet places it before them as a measure and norm (“in accordance with which”). The preached word, when written, became yet more objective and permanent, as a genuine expression of the truth, accomplished by the clarifying reflection of the collected spirit (comp. PETERSEN, Idee der Christlichen Kirche, 2, p. 181 ff.). The propositions: it is true, because it is in the Scriptures, and it is in the Scriptures because it is true, supplement each other.
7. The Church is to be conceived of as a communion rising above the limits of time and of the history of humanity on the earth; it reaches into eternity. But it is also to be regarded as a sphere of the operations of God and of the revelation of His glory, which has a significance, not merely terrestrial but cosmical: a place of the revelation of the Lord, which is the high school of angels (Eph 3:10); we are not indeed the professors at whose feet the angels must sit as scholars, but it is God who leads them onward in the knowledge of His wisdom; we are but the means of instruction. They attend the work of Redemption from the beginning: Matth. 1:20; 2:13, 19; Luke 1:11, 26 ff.; 2:9 ff. Matth. 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matth. 28:2 ff. 1 Tim. 3:16.
8. Creation and Redemption stand in internal connection (Eph 3:9); the former was not willed by God without the latter, and is arranged and ordered with reference to it.
9. The strength of the consciousness of sin (Eph 3:8) is here intensified by means of the contrast with the high office; it is not conditioned by special and peculiar sin, but by his especially clear and profound self-knowledge in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which it was his duty to preach. HARLESS: “Into the inmost depths of the soul each one sees only for himself; what he sees in himself, he does not see on others; what he sees there says to him, that sin dwells in him (Rom. 7:17) and that the wrath of God is upon him, and that now when God’s grace has saved him, he has nothing which he has not received (1 Cor. 4:7); the hearts of others are searched not by him, but by God.” It cannot be affirmed, then, to be a constantly recurring phenomenon, that the most powerful witnesses to Christian truth have been led there through previous and great errors and wanderings; it is however true that such must have obtained a deeper knowledge and experience of corruption in their own hearts, passing through hard and humiliating struggles. Conversion in their case is no greater act of God’s grace than in that of others; they feel it as such, however, more vividly and overwhelmingly: Has the Lord helped me, then I know not whom He is unable and unwilling to help!
10. The ground-tone of the Christian is “boldness” (Eph 3:12), which has a two-fold reference: 1) backwards to the accusing guilt and forwards to the exalted goal; 2) downwards to the threatening world and upwards to the Ever-Present One. In the first aspect this “boldness” is fearless and undoubting confidence, that sin is forgiven, its power broken, and its eradication assured, according to the promise; in the other it is the joyful assurance of the favor and nearness of God, which cannot be disturbed by circumstances the most adverse.—Hence with this “boldness” is joined “the access in confidence” to the throne of the Most High, in the prayer, certain of a hearing, to be preserved in grace and mercy, and to obtain help against the evil without us and the sin within us. [Or taking the other view of the passage, such “boldness and access” possessed “in confidence” so exalts, that he who suffers comforts those who sympathize; the sympathy of Christ not only rises above human sympathy in consoling power, but makes the sufferer able to remove in turn the reflected sorrow in the hearts of sympathizing friends.—R.]
11. Concerning faith it is only stated here, that it is the medium of the blessed condition of the child of God (Eph 3:12: “through our faith in Him”); it alone gives a courageous spirit, constancy and joyous confidence; without it “we have” none of these.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
That is an elevating sight—a man who has overcome sorrow and compelled it to grant him joy, strength, comfort, as a star in the night joyously twinkles for the traveller. It is sad enough, when a man, an heir of eternal life, a child of a Heavenly Father, permits himself to be overcome by sorrow and cast forth like a faded leaf from the tree, to be trodden under foot, instead of affording shade.—The cause of sorrow was to Paul a cause of joy: on account of the Gentiles, to whom he preached the gospel, he was persecuted, and this persecution turned out for their advantage.—Paul was like a sword in the contest against error and falsehood and godlessness; life was the workshop, God the Lord was the master, who formed it, but suffering was the anvil and hammer, by means of which it became solid and sharp; and that was good for the church.—That sufferer is right and sets God right before others, who is like a farmer, that knows the bright sky is ever behind the cloud of sorrow, and finds in streaming rain a blessing from above, and thus praises and thankfully accepts what city folks call “bad weather.”—See to it that you know what gifts are given to you and for what. For in this is the task which you have to do; are you uncertain whether others have rightly profited by you, still be certain of this, that you have done your duty.—Joy in the ministerial office must be greater than the sorrow over the injuries which accompany it. Your calling among men is a gift of God to you and you should be a blessing of God to others.—God does not bestow His gifts of grace perfect and complete out of heaven, as one hangs up a picture in his room; but He produces them in our lives, like a harvest, for while the field is prepared, the seed sown and harrowed in, and sunshine and rain, day and night are ordained.
The Scriptures lay claim to be heard on one matter alone. God’s everlasting mercy in Jesus Christ: Is that of importance to you, then the Bible is also: only there is this made clear to you.—About what is spiritual, Divine, eternal, you find no such information anywhere else, whether among the Greeks or the Germans or the English, as in the prophets and Apostles of Jesus Christ; they are greater than all the world’s philosophers and poets.—It is wonderful how the mystery of Christ, the theme of the symphony of the Holy Scriptures gradually passes from the faint twilight through the gray morning of the prophets to the bright day in the birth and death of Jesus Christ, and the church, like a Memnon-statue, give a clear note in the beams of the rising sun.—“In a few lines!” often enough a mere phrase. Not so here: the rich contents, the deep insight, the pleasure in the communication, the love to the Church—all these conspire to make what is written brief, all too brief. Here the preacher may learn: much matter, few words!—Hear in the congregation, read in the closet! Walk in the Spirit and search in the Scriptures! Shun not solitude, but seek God there! These are three exhortations and three rules for the growth of the inner man.—If you do not consider yourself worse than others, you have not yet known yourself or God.—You should not lose joy or power in your calling, when you recognize in humility your own insignificance, the office is ever greater than its incumbent and rather holds him than he it.—He who with the microscope of God’s word, honestly searches and knows his own heart and life, will have in the same word, a telescope to help his gaze toward the furthest heaven, the world of angels and the life eternal, in blissful gratitude.
STARKE:—Papal Rome and what belongs thereto is as cruel as heathen Rome was, since it arrests and imprisons so many real Christians.—Let no one run into the important office of the preacher, unless God has sent him there.—Reason knows nothing of the mystery of Christ; it is a revelation from God.—God did not at once make known the secrets of His will in all their extent and present distinctness, but it pleased the Divine Wisdom to proceed therein gradually.—Each book of the Bible is like a jewel in a golden crown; Paul’s Epistles, however, have this excellence, that they lead more richly, powerfully and emphatically to Christ. Hence we must use them like daily bread for the nourishment of our souls. Happy are they who in such a perusal can say: the longer, the dearer!—The calling of the Gentiles remains full of mysteries, for thus God has shown His grace, power and truth.—Why should he who is endowed with office and gifts in Christ’s Church exalt himself? He is what he is, and has what he has, not of merit, but all of grace.—The gospel has to do with the unsearchable riches of Christ: away with all else from the pulpit, such as mere human science, pleasant stories, fables, etc.—Learn also, O my soul, with the angels the manifold wisdom of God; learn it in the church, and watch how wonderfully God has gathered, called, upheld and protected it; learn it in thyself, and notice how wondrously He has led thee through this world.—Those teachers should be ashamed who attempt to force from the flock with knocks and scoldings, what would be so much better gained by more winning ways, by requests and entreaties.—When faithful shepherds have weak and timid sheep they must strengthen them with the consolations of the word of God and thus instil courage,—The tribulations of its teachers are no disgrace to the Church, but honor and glorious strengthening. For the power of the Spirit and of the truth manifests itself most gloriously, when on this account one is willing to suffer also.
RIEGER:—The chain and the soldier, with which and to whom Paul was bound made him the prisoner of the Emperor, but the willingness of spirit with which these bonds were borne was from Jesus Christ; hence he was “the prisoner of Christ Jesus,” who also was near him and had an oversight of all that occurred to him. To know and make known God in His unsearchable love is more than to investigate all the works of His hands.—God will not give up His right as Creator, His purpose, which he had in the foundation of the world, with respect to the Kingdom of His Son, but through Redemption will save the Creation, and restore it to its original goodness.—How greatly is the manifold wisdom of God made known through the Church, in the gathering of it from all tribes and tongues, in the adorning of it with so many and varied gifts, in overruling all events for its good, in enduring so many tares, in the unfailing fulfilment of all the declarations of God.
HEUBNER:—Every one has a criterion of his Christian knowledge, in his proper perception of the purpose of God in Christ and the indispensableness of Christ. In our day this is often willingly changed. Many would make of Christianity, something local, temporal, and thus degrade it.—Christ is inexhaustible for mind and heart; we find all in Him. If we would speak of Him, the theme is never exhausted. Let us never make of this rich Christ a poor one!—What Christ has instituted must truly be something transcendent, and not so common that every intellect can discover it; else the angels would not be able to look into it and be satisfied therewith.
PASSAVANT:—Paul will not speak or teach from his own wisdom or his own inspirations; he will not give or recommend any thing, that is from his own thought or mind or will; at this he trembles, against this his whole conduct and life in the service of his Lord speaks. Nor will he speak a single word of any wise or learned one of this world, any birth or abortion of their little brain and great conceit; as little will he borrow from their idle word.—Divinely great was the light, which appeared, on so many pages of the Psalms and Prophets, respecting the calling of the Gentiles; yet even to the Old Testament seers themselves this, like many other things in the future universal economy of salvation, remained largely in the dark; much both in general and in particular was still concealed. Still less than they, did the people to whom they prophesied, perceive this mystery. Besides this, up to the times of Christ and afterwards, the view of most of them was disturbed by their inborn enmity and profound contempt for the Gentiles.—Among these “holy Apostles and prophets” none seem to have viewed the mystery of Christ with so clear, profound and quick a glance as did the Apostle Paul—The great Apostle knows nothing save grace, will know nothing save grace.—The richer my life, my experience, my knowledge of grace, the richer the gifts, the joys, the richer my eternity, the nearer to the eternal building of God, so much the less can I understand it all, so much more deep and unfathomable are these depths.—“The highest of sciences is Christianity!” says a friend of God; “little as Christians devote their attention and study to it! the highest, most enlightened of the angels have made it their study, and learn from it to perceive God in a manner worthy of Him; and those, for whom such a master-piece is wrought, do not know it nor deem it worth their knowledge.” Others, on the contrary, search therein in an ungodly spirit alone, their wit will guess everything, their intellect explain all, even arrange all; will blame and criticise, will approve and deny, will break up and break off,—and the powers on high in eternal light wait patiently, until light and knowledge comes to them respecting these things.
STIER:—The bonds themselves preach to the Gentiles; they reveal even to the Apostle himself something new.—The reading for one’s self is pre-supposed and recommended in the case of each individual.—Missions are the continued, God-given, gracious and spiritual life of the church, her impulse of growth. They re-act as powerfully, widely and thoroughly as the preaching of the gospel on the church of the baptized, since from them we first learned the idea of the Inner Mission, or as the English say still more beautifully: Home Missions.
ZIEL (on Eph. 3:8–21):—The Apostle Paul was a rich man in his prison: 1. Rich in the unsearchable riches of Christ, to the proclamation of which the grace of God had called him (Eph 3:8–12); 2. Rich in his fervent love to the brethren, which revealed itself in his supplication for them (Eph 3:13–19); 3. Rich in his unswerving confidence in God, who can do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, and with whose praise he is full (Eph 3:20, 21).
Eph 3:8. The riches of Christ are the true wealth of men and nations. And those riches are unsearchable. Even the value of the portion already possessed cannot be told by any symbols of numeration, for such riches can have no adequate exponent or representative. The latest periods of time shall find those riches unimpaired, and eternity shall behold the same wealth neither worn by use nor dimmed by age, nor yet diminished by the myriads of its happy participants.
Eph 3:9. If we gaze upon a landscape as the rising sun strikes successive points and brings them into view in every variety of tint and shade, both subjective and objective illumination is enjoyed. No wonder that in so many languages light is the emblem of knowledge.—At the fittest time, not prematurely, but with leisurely exactness, were created both the human materials on which redemption was to work that peculiar and varied mechanism by which its designs were to be accomplished.
Eph 3:10. In the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles, with its strange preparations, various agencies and stupendous effects—involving the origination and extinction of Judaism, the incarnation and the atonement, the manger and the cross, the spread of the Greek language and the triumph of the Roman arms—“these principalities and powers in heavenly places” beheld with rapture other and brighter phases of a wisdom which had often dazzled them by its brilliant and profuse versatility, and surprised and entranced them by the infinite fulness of the love which prompts it, and of the power which itself directs and controls.
Eph 3:11. In all this procedure, which reveals to princedoms and powers God’s manifold wisdom, the Divine eternal plan is consistently and systematically developed in Christ.—R.]
[HODGE:—“Through faith of him.” How may I come to God with the assurance of acceptance? The answer given by the Apostle, and confirmed by the experience of the saints of all ages, is, ‘By faith in Jesus Christ.’ It is because men rely on some other means of access, either bringing some worthless bribe in their hands, or trusting to some other mediator, priestly or saintly, that so many fail who seek to enter God’s presence.—R.]
[SCHENKEL:—It is a grace to be able to suffer for the sake of the kingdom of God and the advantage of our brethren: for thus to suffer is a blessing 1) for one’s own heart, 2) for the church.—The glory of the Apostolic office: 1. As to its ground, resting on revelation; 2. As to its end, to effect a knowledge of the mystery of God.—The preaching of the gospel: 1) As to its purport, it is about the unsearchable riches of Christ; 2) As to its end, the enlightening of a darkened world.—The Christian Church, the bond which links heaven with earth.—R.]
Eph 3:1.—[ Ἰησοῦ is omitted in א1 D. 1 F.; it is bracketted by Alford. The order in A. B. C. D. 23 K. L. is Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, so the corrector in א. For the inverted order of the E. V., there is no authority.—R.]
Eph 3:3.—א. A. B. C. D. and others [many cursives, most versions, including the Syriac and Vulgate] read ἐγνωρίσθη; the internal grounds (Stier notices the agreement with 1:9, the distinct reference to the Trinity, the great probability of an alteration from Eph 3:5) are not stronger than the external. [The reading of the Rec. (ἐγνώρισε) supported by D.³ K. L., and some minor authorities, is considered an explanatory gloss by most modern editors.—R.]
Eph 3:4.—[This verse must be thus recast to conform to the exegesis of Dr. Braune, which agrees exactly with that of Ellicott, Alford and others.—R.]
Eph 3:5.—[The preposition ἐν is an explanatory interpolation, having no uncial support, rejected by all modern editors.—R.]
Eph 3:5.—[The Greek aorist is joined with νῦν, but in English we cannot say: as it was now revealed. Since now is emphatic, we must adopt the English perfect, as indeed is frequently necessary.—R.]
Eph 3:6.—[The Rec. inserts αὐτοῦ. It is rejected by most modern editors, since the more important MSS. (א. A. B. C. D.¹) with a number of minor authorities are against it.—On are instead of should be, see Exeg. Notes. The words fellow-heirs, fellow-members, fellow-partakers, are analogous to the unusual Greek compounds, seemingly coined by the Apostle. Tischendorf (on the authority of some of the best MSS., (א. A. B.¹ and others in the various instances) adopts the forms: συ ν κληρ., σύ ν σω., συ ν μέτ., instead of the more euphonic and usual forms. So Ellicott.—R.]
Eph 3:6.—[Modern editors generally accept Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (א. A. B. C., cursives and versions) instead of τῷ Χριστῷ (Rec., D. E. F. G. K. L.; most cursives)—R.]
Eph 3:7.—The reading ἐγενήθην is found in א. A. B. D.1 F. G. and others; ἐγενόμην [Rec., C. D.3 K. L.] being the more usual form, was likely to creep in.
Eph 3:7.—[The Rec. has: τὴν δοθεῖσαν, on the authority of D.3 K. L., most cursives, many versions and fathers; adopted by Tischendorf, Meyer, Braune. The genitive:τῆς δοθεῖσης is found in א. A. B. C. D. 1 F. G., 10 cursives and a few versions; adopted by Lachmann, Rückert, Alford, Ellicott and most later critics. The latter is better sustained; the presence of the genitive in Eph 3:2 casts a doubt on it, but to my mind not sufficient to warrant adopting the accusative.—The longer form substituted above brings out better the connection between given and what follows.—R.]
Eph 3:8.—[Rec. inserts ἐν before τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, on the authority of D. F. K. L., most cursives, versions and fathers; retained by Ellicott and Eadie. The suspicion of an alteration from Gal. 1:16 (a parallel passage) is very great, and as its omission, supported by א. A. B. C., presents a lectio difficilior, it is rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Braune and others.—The Rec. also inserts τῶν after πάντων against all our manuscript authority.—The rendering: to preach is more literal, conforms better with the sense of the aorist: was given, as well as with the infinite construction retained in Eph 3:9.—R.]
Eph 3:9.—[The reading κοινωνία (Rec.) instead of οἰκονομία (א. A. B. C. D. F. K. L.) is an explanatory gloss, supported by no important authority and rejected by all critical editors.—ΙΙάντας is omitted in A. א.1 (afterwards added). Men need not be supplied, since the personal reference is not marked—א. (with a few minor authorities) omits ἐν after τῷ θεῷ.—R.]
Eph 3:9.—[The longer reading of the Rec. is supported by D.³ K. L., a number of cursives, and a few fathers; διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is omitted in א. A. B. C. D.¹ F. G., a few cursives, the best versions and many fathers. It is therefore rightly rejected by critical editors.—R.]
Eph 3:12.—[The second τήν is omitted in א. A. B. (rejected by Lachmann, Rückert, bracketted by Alford); but nearly all cursives and fathers support it, together with א.3 C. D. F. G. K. L. (though with some variations in position); accepted by Tischendorf, Meyer, Ellicott and most.—R.]
Eph 3:12.—[This emendation gives the correct sense better than the literal but harsh and equivocal rendering of the E. V.—R.]
Eph 3:13.—[Dr. Braune’s exegesis requires the following rendering: Wherefore I pray (God) that (I) faint not,” etc. See Exeg. Notes.—The Rec. has ἐκκακεῖν, with C. D. 3 F. K. L. Ellicott (with A. B. 1 D.1 E.) ἐνκακεῖν. while most editors accept the form ἐγκακεῖν (א. B.2). Comp. my Textual Notes on Gal. 6:9. Meyer does not accept the view that the first named is a doubtful word, but thinks it was in oral use and first introduced into writing by Paul; the other reading being an attempt at improvement. He is almost alone in this opinion.—R.]
[According to the usual view, Eph 3:14 is a resumption of Eph 3:1, all that intervenes being a digression. Dr. Braune takes another view of the construction (see his note at the close of Eph 3:1), but is forced to accept a connection of thought which amounts to the same thing.—R.]
[Χριστοῦ standing first perhaps implies that it was the Messiahship of Jesus which caused his imprisonment (ALFORD).—R.]
[It was indeed the fact that he was a prisoner on account of the Gentiles, out this is not the prominent thought here. Hence EADIE may or may not he correct in saying: “In writing to the Ephesians he could not forget that the suspicion of his having taken an Ephesian named Trophimus into the temple with him, created the popular disturbance that led to his capture and his final appeal to Cæsar, his journey to Rome, and his imprisonment in the imperial city.”—R.]
[This seems to be one of those cases where the Greek aorist is properly rendered by the English perfect.—R.]
[ALFORD refers it to 1:9 ff., EADIE to 2:13–22; HODGE and ELLICOTT accept the wider reference. The last author refers καθώς to the fact that the mystery was made known to the Apostle, not to the manner in which it was made known, but Braune’s view seems preferable.—R.]
[The aorist infinitive, according to DONALDSON (Grammar, § 427, 8) “describes a single act either as the completion or as the commencement of a continuity.” Hence ALFORD says that here “the act is regarded as one of a series, each of which, when it occurs, is sudden and transitory.” Comp. ELLICOTT in loco, who does not press the aorist here; and WINER, p. 313, where the idiomatic use of the aorist infinitive after δύναμαι is mentioned. The view of Braune is in any case allowable.—R.]
[So ALFORD, ELLICOTT and others. EADIE prefers to take the genitive as one of the object, but Braune does so, and yet reaches MEYER’S explanation. In any case “the mystery” here refers to the whole wonderful scheme or purpose of Redemption in Christ, of which He is Himself the centre. See note on Eph 3:3.—R.]
[This is a mistake borrowed from DE WETTE. See ALFORD in loco. This view of the connection is that of KOPPE and HOLZHAUSEN. It is admissible enough grammatically, but why define “prophets” by so self-evident a qualification, or distinguish them thus from “apostles;” for the adjective “holy” must then be limited to the latter term.—That the two terms “apostles” and “prophets” refer to the same persons can scarcely be accepted; see on 2:20.—R.]
[According to BUTTMANN (Lexic. under the word διάκτορος) this word is derived from διάκω. or διήκω, to hasten. The Ionic form is διήκονος, and the α is long, hence it is not a compound with διά. ELLICOTT refers to Beufey, Wurzellexicon for remoter difficulties.—R.]
[ALFORD: “Not merely externally to teach, referred to his work—but internally to enlighten the hearers, referred to their apprehension” HODGE takes the verb as equivalent to “teach;” EADIE is much better.—R.]
[The correct reading takes away the only support which this view could have from text or context.—R.]
[A reference to both classes is excluded “not so much by ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, as by the general tenor of the passage; evil angels more naturally recognize the power, good angels the wisdom of God” (ELLICOTT).—R.]
[ALFORD supports the sense: “constituted,” urging that Paul would have used a more definite verb to express the idea of executing the purpose, and further that the aorist seems to point back to a definite act of origination, while the perfect would better express the continued execution. The latter remark has some force, but does not outweigh the arguments supporting the other sense: (1) That the name of “Jesus,” the historical Saviour, follows immediately; (2) that the next verse is an explanatory confirmation of the accomplished, not the purposed design (MEYER). It may be added that this meaning is more common in the New Testament (2:3; Matth. 21:31; John 6:38; 1 Thess. 5:24 and I elsewhere) than the other, which occurs only in Mark 15:1; Rev. 17:17 (not Acts 17:17, as Braune has it in the German, repeating a typographical error, which has been allowed to remain in several editions of MEYER). Notwithstanding WINER’S distinction, in neither case do we find the middle. ELLICOTT properly renders the verb: wrought, instead of using the too definite “fulfilled.” In support of Braune’s view, the following names may be mentioned: THEODORET, GROTIUS, OLSHAUSEN, DE WETTE, MEYER, CONYBEARE, ELLICOTT, HODGE, EADIE.—R.]
[Dr. Braune there refers to the mistaken conception of the term arising from one of those etymological jumbles so common in all languages. The sense is Freimüthigkeit; Luther however rendered it Freydigkeit, Freidigkeit (derived from frei, free). This was soon confounded with Freudigkeit freudig, joyful); a sense which has influenced English commentators as well. The joyous element is present indeed, but not so prominent as this mistake has made it.—R.]
[ELLICOTT clings to the transitive meaning here also, though admitting some uncertainty in regard to it. The union with “boldness” requires the transitive sense. “We may confidently say, that so important an objective truth as our introduction to God by Christ would never have been thus coupled to a mere subjective quality in ourselves” (ALFORD). Still it is not so purely subjective as “boldness.”—R.]
[HODGE: “You could no more appoint a man an Apostle, than you could appoint him a saint. Neither inspiration nor holiness come by appointment. An Apostle without inspiration is as much a solecism as a saint without holiness. Rome, here as everywhere, retains the semblance without the reality, the form without the power. She has Apostles without inspiration, the office without the grace of which the office was but the expression. Thus she feeds herself and her children upon ashes.”—R.]
[BAYNE (from EADIE) on Eph 3:4: “Here he confuteth the papists, on account of their cursed practice in taking away the key of knowledge—the reading of the Scriptures; in which fact they are like the Philistines, putting out the eyes of Samson, and taking away the smiths, not leaving a weapon in Israel.”—R.]
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,2. The Apostle’s petition with an exhortation for the church
14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [omit 15of our Lord Jesus Christ],33 Of [From] whom the whole [every] family in heaven and [on] earth is named, 16That he would grant34 you, according to the riches35 of his glory, to be strengthened with might by [through] his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by [through] faith; that ye, being rooted 18and grounded in love,36 May be [fully] able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;37 19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge [or the knowledge-surpassing-love of Christ], that ye might be filled with [may be filled up to] all the fulness of God.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Eph 3:14. The connection. For this cause, τούτου χάριν.—Thus Paul connects with Eph 3:1, where the construction is interrupted. Still with ὑπερ ὑμῶν (Eph 3:13) ha has already resumed what was expressed in Eph 3:1, and with “which are your glory,” referred to the previous current of thought (2:22: “ye are builded together”). Comp. 3:1. [EADIE: “The prayer must be regarded as immediately following that section, and its architectural terms and allusions will thus be more clearly understood.” MEYER however explains: on this account that you faint not, etc.—R.]
The prayer, Eph 3:14, 15.
I bow my knees, κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου.—So Phil. 2:10. It describes τὴν κατανενυγμένην δέησιν (CHRYSOSTOM). BENGEL: “Si præsens adfuisset Paulus, genua flexisset, exardescente pectore. Acts 20:36. Here the reference is to genua mentis (JEROME); the idea of “praying” is so prominent, that the accusative sometimes follows the verb γονυπετεῖν (Matth. 17:14; Mark 10:17).
Unto the Father, πρὸς τὸν πατέρα.—The phrase is found thus without any qualification in 2:18; 5:20; Col. 1:12. [On πρός, denoting the direction, see WINER, p. 378. The metaphorical sense of the phrase justifies the preposition; were the idea merely that of bending the knee, a dative would probably follow.—On the phrase: of our Lord Jesus Christ, see Textual Note1.—R.]
From whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.38—Ἐξ οὑ̄ πᾶσα πατριὰ—ὀνομάζεται is a paronomasia to πατέρα, which cannot be reproduced, except as Luther (1545) has so beautifully and correctly expressed it: Der der rechte Vater ist über Alles, was da kinder heisst; all editions from 1522–1541 read: was Vater heisst. Evidently “from whom,” ἐξ οὑ̄, refers to “Father,” from Him (ἐξ) originates the name borne (ὀνομάζεται) by him who stands at the head of a group, πατριά, which is thus termed from πατήρ. The etymology must be well considered here. While φυλαί (מַטּוֹת) designates the tribes descending from the sons of Jacob, πατριαί (מִשְׁפָחוֹת) denotes the families in the several tribes, descending from the sons of Jacob’s sons; οἶκοι (בֶּית־חָאָבוֹת) is yet more special in its meaning. Hence the reference here is to larger groups. The word designates a lineage, family, springing from one father and bearing his name. [EADIE: “Every circle of holy and intelligent creatures having the name of πατριά takes that name from God as ΙΙατήρ.” So ALFORD, ELLICOTT.—R.] Accordingly something concrete and living is treated of, so that it is not=πατρότης, Fatherhood (THEODORET, JOHN of Damascus, ANSELM, LUTHER, 1522–41; MEYER: He is the original Father, the Father of all fathers; THOLUCK, Sermon on the Mount, p. 394; NITZSCH, Prakt. Theol. 1. p. 269).
ΙΙᾶσα without the article (WINER, p. 110) necessarily refers to the multiplicity of the families: every family. BENGEL is excellent: omnis, angelorum, hominum ceterorum, ex ipso, ut patre, pendens; as David’s family from David (Luke 2:4) and from Abraham, so the blessing comes, like that of a father upon all the families of the earth (Acts 3:25). The phrase: “in heaven and on earth,” ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς, joined closely to πατριά without the article, points to the world of angels and of men, referring to the groups dependent on heads and chiefs. We must then understand here classes of angels (comp. on 1:21), since the angels also are called sons, children of God (Job 38:7; Luke 20:36) and call God their Father, not merely their Creator, and races of people as national families, although “children of disobedience” (2:2; 5:6) are not wanting. For “all angels, all Christians, aye, all children of men are God’s children, for He has created them all” (LUTHER) in Christ, the Son of filiation. The word πατριά, which by the addition of πᾶσα and ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς, has received an extension of meaning reaching far beyond bodily descent, must be understood not merely in a natural, but also in an ethical sense, as indeed the idea: “Father” is thus used. Since “fatherhood” has not a concrete meaning, it cannot be translated by this word, but STIER thus attempts to preserve the concrete force, der rechte Vater uber Alles, was nach Vätern heisst.
It is incorrect and ungrammatical to understand by it the whole world family (MEYER, OLSHAUSEN and others), or only two groups, angels and men (CALVIN), or the saints in heaven and the elect on the earth (CALOV.),39 since in that case the article would be found before ἐν οὐρανοῖς and before ἐπὶ γῆς, as in the first case it should stand after πᾶσα. It is incorrect to ignore altogether the idea of groups, families, which Luther’s version throws into the background, and to make of God an “All-father” (MEYER). LUTHER has given occasion to this mistake, but corrected it through his translation; for he says there that God is Father over all, that is called children, of course maintained, cared for, as we are, in Christ. It respects more the right Father than the right children (HARLESS). Finally all polemical reference, such as against the particularism of the Jews (CALVIN), angel-worship (MICHAEL), must be rejected. The passage is ironical rather. Comp. Doctr. Note 2.
Eph 3:16. The purport of the supplication. Eph 3:16, 17.—That he would grant you.—Ἵνα δῷ ὑμῖν marks the purpose and consequently the purport of the supplication, indicating at the same time the confidence of him who prays, that He who is implored will fulfil his request. Comp. 1:17. [The subject and the purpose thus blended as so often when ἵνα follows a verb signifying (even metaphorically) to pray.—R.]
According to the riches of his glory.—Κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ defines the δῷ more closely, as a rich and glorious giving. He should give, not merely announce, according to, in the proportion of His riches in glory. See 1:7, 17; Col. 1:11. “Glory” here embraces the whole glorious perfection of God (MEYER); there is no ground for limiting it to power (GROTIUS) or grace (CALVIN).
To be strengthened with might.—Δυνάμει, “with might,” placed first for emphasis, cannot anticipate either the phrase “by his spirit,” or “in the inner man,” nor can it be an instrumental dative (MEYER), nor does it refer to the will or moral being over against knowledge (HARLESS), which also belongs to the inner man and is given prominence in Eph 3:18, 19. It qualifies the verb “strengthened,” κραταιωθῆναι, which is antithetical to the term ἐγκακεῖν, “faint” (Eph 3:13) thus not merely excluding discouragement and weakness, but marking also the external efficiency, the influence on the world, the overcoming as well as the standing fast, like ἀνδρίζεσθε before κραταιοῦσθε (1 Cor. 16:13) See 6:10; Col. 1:11; 1 Pet. 5:10. Hence the passage does not refer to mere passivity, so that δυνάμει is merely a strengthening of the verb (RUECKERT). LUTHER is incorrect: “That he may give you strength—to become strong.” [The instrumental sense is adopted by ELLICOTT, HODGE, ALFORD, EADIE and many others. Braune’s view virtually resolves the dative into an adverb. ELLICOTT: It defines “the element or influence of which the spirit is the ‘causa medians.’ ” The contrast with ἐγκακεῖν, though plausible, must not be pressed. EADIE. who finds a reference to the figure of the temple in Eph 3:18, sees an architectural allusion here.—R.]
Through his Spirit [διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ].—The means of imparting such strength is indicated thus (αὐτοῦ=θεοῦ, who is implored); God’s Holy Spirit makes us strong within, and thus prepares not only the actual fellowship in the kingdom of God, but also the powerful demonstration of the same; hence BENGEL well says: δυνάμεί bene congruit cum mentione spiritus.
In the inner man.—[Εἰς here is not=ἐν, nor=in regard of (MEYER, WINER, DE WETTE, HODGE: as to), but “to and into,” marking “the direction and destination of the prayer for gift of infused strength” (ELLICOTT).—R.] ‘Ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος (so also Rom. 7:22) is the antithesis of ὁ ἔξω ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος (2 Cor. 4:16), which “perishes,” while “the inward man is renewed day by day.” It is not something physical, but moral, hence too, not=νοῦς, which can have a “vanity” (4:17), of which “corrupt” can be predicated (1 Tim. 6:5), which is impossible in the case of the inner man. It is rather=“the hidden man of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4) and refers to the concealed, displaced and obscured image of God within us. Accordingly the Apostle says εἰς τὸν ἔσω, to become strong so far as to reach within to this; the preposition thus marking the aim towards which the becoming strong should be constantly and renewedly directed. See WINER, p. 389. Accordingly “the inner man” cannot be used interchangeably with “the new man” (4:24); the latter is the new creature, in which the former lives again, rises anew out of the death of sin which has come upon it: “the inner man” does not stand in antithesis to the “body,” but includes so much of it as God in the creation has prepared and designed for the life in glory, in the new creation ‘for the resurrection of the body. See Doctr. Note 3. [Comp. LANGE, Romans 7:7–25, especially my Excursus, pp. 232–236.40—R.]
Eph 3:17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.—This verse forms an explanatory, further developing, parallel to the infinitive clause of Eph 3:16. We have here a second petition, in continuation of the first, hence Luther is not altogether incorrect in inserting an epexegetical “and.” [See below.] Κατοικῆσαι denotes a permanent indwelling of one taking entire possession, as Col. 1:19; 2:9; Matth. 12:45; Luke 11:26; 2 Pet. 3:13; Jas. 4:5. The expression οἰκεῖν, Rom. 7:20 (Eph 3:17: ἐνοικοῦσα), 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16, is weaker. Here it stands first for emphasis and refers to κατοικητήριον, 2:21, 22. Comp. John 14:21–23. BENGEL is excellent: in perpetuum. It corresponds to “strengthened with might,” which precedes it; as the former is marked as an effect from without, from above, by “into the inner man,” so the latter is distinguished by “in your hearts,” as an internal condition.
Διὰ τῆς πίστεως [almost=through your faith] denotes in any case a power of the Spirit which has been appropriated by the Christian; accordingly the previous petition was διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, “through the Spirit,” to whom the initiative belongs, the Spirit of Christ, preparing for Him (BENGEL: ubi spiritus Dei, ibi etiam Christus), while πίστις, “faith,” is wrought by the Spirit in the human spirit, is the power of man, awakened, directed, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, to appropriate Christ, to become Christ’s. Hence it is neither idem per idem (MATTHIES), nor something entirely different (RUECKERT), nor yet a consequence from what precedes, independent of δῷ, but dependent on κραταιωθῆναι (BLEEK).
[The connection has been much discussed. MEYER (following CALVIN: declarat, quale sit interioris hominis robur) takes the clause as Braune does: parallel to the last clause of Eph 3:16, with an explanatory force. DE WETTE explains the infinitive as one of design, an opinion to which EADIE formerly inclined. Notwithstanding Braune’s objection, the simplest explanation is that of BLEEK, adopted previously however by ALFORD and ELLICOTT among others. This accepts the clause as one expressive of the result (“so that”) of the inward strengthening. The emphasis resting on the infinitive seems to demand this (ALFORD). This is a somewhat lax construction, but clearly admissible (WINER, p. 298).—The view which connects “the inner man” with this verse (Syriac, AMBROSIASTER, PELAGIUS): “In order that Christ may inhabit the inner man by the faith which is in your hearts,” is altogether untenable. On καρδία, comp. 1:18; DELITZSCH, Bib. Psychologie, II. p. 203 f.: “the seat and centre of the moral life viewed on the side of the affections.” CALVIN: “Partem etiam designat ubi legitima est Christus sedes; nempe cor: ut sciamus, non satis esse, si in lingua versatur, aut in cerebro volitet.”]
The end of the supplication; Eph 3:18, 19 a.
Eph 3:18. That ye.—Ἵνα, “that,” is placed after the closer definition of the subject, as ἕως, 2 Thess. 2:7, and as ἵνα is put after the object in 2 Cor. 2:4; Gal. 2:10; Acts 19:4. Similarly 1 Cor. 11:14, 15; 14:7 (ἐάν), 16 (πῶς). [So Rom. 11:31, where however Dr. Lange denies the trajection. This view of the construction is accepted by BEZA, CAMERARIUS, GROTIUS, CALIXTUS, SEMLER, STORR, ROSENMUELLER, FLATT, MEIER, MEYER, WINER (eds. 6, 7), BUTTMANN, SCHENKEL, HODGE. It is however adopted by none of the ancient versions except the Gothic, is rejected by ORIGEN expressly. The other view joins this clause to what precedes, as a consequence of the indwelling of Christ, accepting an irregular nominative. So in the main: CHRYSOSTOM, ERASMUS, LUTHER, ESTIUS, MORUS, KOPPE, RUECKERT, MATTHIES, HARLESS, OLSHAUSEN, B-CRUSIUS, DE WETTE, BLEEK, EADIE, ELLICOTT, ALFORD. Our preference is for the former construction. See below.—R.]41
Being rooted and grounded in love.—The perfect participles, ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι, denote a state, in which they already are and continue to be, which is the pre-supposition, in order that they may be able to know. This state is effected by what has been prayed for in Eph 3:15, 16; hence according to the sense and the context it is impossible to connect these participles with what precedes (CHRYSOSTOM, LUTHER: “and to become rooted and grounded through love,” RUECKERT, HARLESS, BLEEK and others), even if it were grammatically admissible to join a nominative to ὑμῶν, as in 4:23: ὑμᾶς—ἀνεχόμενοι—σ̔πουδάζοντες. Col. 2:2; 3:16. See WINER, p. 532. This position gives especial weight to the participles, which introduce two figures borrowed from a tree and a building. They mark that a profoundly penetrating life (ἐῤῥιζωμένοι) and a well-grounded, permanent character (τεθεμελιωμένοι) are necessary. [The first may be regarded as used “without any other allusion to its primitive meaning than that of fixedness, firmness at the base or foundation” (ELLICOTT).—R.]. Comp. 1 Cor. 3:9; Col. 2:7.
The double figure strengthens the notion of the relation to love; this latter (ἐν ἀγάπῃ) is made prominent by being placed first. “In” marks “love” as the soil, in which they are rooted, and as the foundation, on which they are grounded. This implies moreover that it is not their own love which is referred to, but one which corresponds with the soil afforded to the tree, the foundation given to the house; and this would undoubtedly be, in accordance with the context, the love of Christ (BENGEL), were not all closer definition wanting, even the article. Accordingly this substantive rendered general by the absence of the article corresponds with the verbal idea: in loving, i.e. in that love, which is first God’s in Christ and then that of men who become Christians, who are rooted in Him and grounded on Him through faith. [The reference to the Christian grace of love (EADIE, ALFORD, ELLICOTT) is preferable since it does not lay too much stress on the absence of the article, as is done by both MEYER (in amando) and HARLESS (subjective, because anarthrous), and does not confound two things (God’s love to us and our love in response), either of which might be represented as soil and foundation, scarcely both.—R.] But it is not necessary to supply “in Christ” (HARLESS) in thought, as if “in love” could be instrumental and the preposition could be repeated with two different references and used in joining two distinct definitions. Nor should it be limited to “love of the brethren” (CALVIN, SCHENKEL, BLEEK and others), as is still further evident from what follows.
May be fully able to comprehend [ἴνα εξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι.—Καταλαβέσθαι here means more than a mere intellectual apprehension, a perception, as in Acts 4:13; 25:25; 10:34, but pre-eminently an inward experience: it corresponds with γνῶναι, which is conjoined to it with τε; but differs from it however, the first word denoting the inward experience, the latter the spiritual perception [The tense of this verb perhaps implies the singleness of the act, and the voice the exercise of the mental power, a dynamic middle (KRUEGER), indicating the earnestness or spiritual energy with which the action is performed (ELLICOTT).—R.] The verb έξισχύσητε, placed in emphatic position, adds the idea of exertion, an energetic pressing through; BENGEL: evaleatis.
Something important is treated of, which cannot be comprehended in solitude, for one’s self alone, but only in fellowship: with all saints, σὺν πᾶσι τοῖς ἁγίοις.—Like all science, the science of God’s love, the study of God, is a joint labor.
What is the breadth and length and depth and height, τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ βάθος καὶ ὕψος.—The lively, roused spirit of the Apostle here borrows the figure of a body, a mathematical magnitude [sacra illa Pauli mathematica], as in Job 11:8, 9, it is applied to God’s wisdom and perfection; it is instead of and=τί τὸ μέγεθος, what is the greatness. Since the article occurs but once, the unity of the object referred to is strongly indicated. Very naturally the “breadth” comes first, to this the “length” corresponds; then the “depth” is the nearest dimension, and the “height” closes the series: what is the object then whose dimensions Paul notices here? It is not directly designated, and hence must be taken from the context. The added clause connected with this by τε points at once to “the love of Christ.” The dimensions set forth here then become clear: “breadth” refers to the nations lying beside each other on the earth, over all of whom the love of Christ will extend itself; “length,” to the successive ages during which it will reach; “depth,” to the misery and corruption of sin, into which it will descend; “height” to the glory at God’s throne and near His heart to which it would elevate all.
To return to Eph 3:9 and accept “the mystery” as the object (CHRYSOSTOM, CALOVIUS, RUECKERT, HARLESS and others) is as unfounded as to find a reference to “the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19), and with Rev. 11:1; 21:15, 16, to understand the Church of Christ, the temple of God (BENGEL, STIER, [EADIE], and others), or merely to supply “of God” or “of Christ” (MATTHIES, and others); HOLZHAUSEN alone suggests “our love!” Arbitrary as many of the explanations of the four dimensions undoubtedly are, the opinion of MEYER, that every special interpretation is unpsychological, only opening the door to subjective speculations, is equally unjustifiable. Abusus non tollit usum. The thought of the Apostle is clear: Loved and loving thou knowest the love of Christ. Certainly it is not: In the love to the brethren thou wilt know God’s love. Comp. 1 John 4:10, 16; John 15:9–11.
[This simple view of the object whose dimensions are here predicated is held in the main by CALVIN, CALIXTUS, MORUS, STORR, HODGE, MEYER, ELLICOTT. EADIE strangely enough opposes it because τε follows: see his notes for a good resumé of opinions. ELLICOTT says: “The consequent clause, without being dependent or explanatory, still practically supplies the defining genitive: Paul pauses on the word ὕψος, and then, perhaps feeling it the most appropriate characteristic of Christ’s love, he appends, without finishing the construction, a parallel thought which hints at the same conception (ὑπερβάλλουσαν), and suggests the required genitive.” ALFORD, less correctly, leaves the object indefinite: “of all that God has revealed or done in or for us,” a view which results from his insisting on the subordinate character of the clause introduced by τε. This little word really settles the question the other way.—An allusion to the temple of Diana (MACKNIGHT, CHANDLER) is exceedingly improbable, and the reference to the Christian Church finds no support in the context, foregoing or subsequent. AUGUSTINE gives the fanciful explanation: sacramentum cruces, which ESTIUS elaborates. Comp. that of SEVERIANUS (in ALFORD), and the various homiletical applications given in Hom, Notes.—R.]
Eph 3:19. And to know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ [γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγἀπην τοῦ Χρ̄ιστοῦ.—Τνῶναί τε adds something closely related, giving prominence to the perception of what has become a matter of internal experience. The object is “the love of Christ,” obviously Christ’s love, not our love to Him. To the former alone is the attribute “knowledge-surpassing” applicable. BENGEL: Suavissima hæc quasi correctio est; dixerat: cognoscere, statim negat cognitionem idoneam haberi posse. The participle, which is here placed between the article and substantive, must evidently be taken as an adjective, governing with its comparative meaning the genitive which follows, superiorem cognitione. See WINER, p. 324. It is=ὑπέχουσαν πάντα νοῦν, “which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). Comp. Phil. 3:8–10. It is an oxymoron, like 1 Cor. 1:21, 25; 2 Cor. 8:2; Gal. 2:19; 1 Tim. 5:6, and refers to an (adequate) apprehension of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (i.e., the particular abstract knowledge, which is possible to man of himself). HARLESS: “Love fully solves the mystery of love; only love experiences love and knows love. The γνῶσις of the reflecting understanding finds its limit here; the γνῶσις of love understands the love of Christ, which otherwise far transcended γνῶσις.” LUTHER (1522–41): also to know the love of Christ, which yet exceeds all knowledge; in 1545 the incorrect rendering first appeared, which goes too far in the attempt to popularize the Scriptural language: and to know that to love Christ is better than all knowing. This is contrary both to the language and the context. Yet it cannot be said, that the love of Christ is the object of a knowledge, which never attains its full end (RUECKERT). Against this is the previous expression: “that ye may be able,” as well as the remainder of the verse. [Nor can we accept the view of HARLESS and OLSHAUSEN: “that ye may know that the love of Christ is knowledge-surpassing,” since the participle, which is properly taken as an adjective, is thus twisted into an infinitive, and since the Apostle’s prayer is thus unnecessarily shorn of its fulness.—R.]
The final end of the supplication; Eph 3:19 b.
That ye may be filled up.—This phrase connects itself with “that ye may be able … to know,” and designates the highest, last favor which the Apostle implores for the Church. With what are they to be filled?
To all the fulness of God [εις πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ.]—Ἐἰς designates that toward and unto which the becoming filled proceeds, and πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, meta est (BENGEL), to which the Church should attain, when it is filled. It is therefore in her, not without her. Hence the Apostle is treating of a fulness in them which God grants, and which is unincumbered, unabridged. They must themselves, through the experience and knowledge of the love of Christ, be prepared, expanded, strengthened and fitted to receive πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, “all the fulness,” which God will impart, has determined and ordained to impart. What God imparts is indeed in Him, from His own character and glory He imparts. LUTHER: “That is according to the Hebrew mode of speech as much as to say, that we are filled in every way, by which He makes full—that He alone completely rules and works in us.”
It is a bolder expression than 2 Pet. 1:4: “partakers of the Divine nature.” Comp. 4:13; Col. 2:9, 10. CHRYSOSTOM: πληροῦσθαι πάσης ἀρετῆς, ἦς πλήρης ἐστὶν ὁ θεός. THEODORET: ἵνα τελείως αὐτὸν ἔνοικον δέξησθε. It is not to be limited to the presence of grace (HARLESS), or to charisms (MEYER), nor to be pantheistically extended or applied to the universe, filling itself in God, i.e., reaching the highest expression of its perfection, and reflecting itself in the Church, so that in it there is no more defect to be discovered (SCHENKEL). A fulness of God, which complements His Godhead, as though God’s Being were first perfected through the Church, is as little the subject treated of as a pantheistic deification of men. See 1:23. The Apostle undoubtedly refers to the persons and personal culture of the individual members of the Church. See Doctr. Note. 4.
[MEYER and DE WETTE take πλήρωμα in the sense of πλῆθος, and the genitive as that of origin. But the GREEK FATHERS, and OLSHAUSEN, ALFORD, ELLICOTT, HODGE, among late commentators, prefer to take πλήρωμα in the strict sense of id quo res impletur, and the genitive as a possessive, implying: “that ye may be so filled as God is filled,” the reference being not to charismatic gifts, but to the spiritual perfections of God. The only objection is, that such a fulness could not be realized here in a state of imperfection, but εἰς shows that a standard is here set up, and none but a perfect one would be thus held before them. The other view is too tame for the climactic position and force of the clause. ALFORD: “All the fulness of the Godhead abides in Christ, Col. 2:9. Christ then abiding in your hearts, ye, being raised up to the comprehension of God’s mercy in Him and of His love, will be filled, even as God is full—each in your degree, but all to your utmost capacity, with Divine wisdom, might and love.”—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The fervency of the worship (κάμπτω τἀ γόνατά μου) does not lose itself in the joyous sense of the love of God (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα), but becomes more deep and clear in love to the neighbor, in unselfish supplication, which in the scale of prayer rises above the lowest grade, which is a cry of need, a cry for help, above the grade of a pupil, the petition for supply of needed good and protection from threatening evil, and approaches in its best feature the master-prayer of thanksgiving, which is so often forgotten, and of praise, that so often is not understood.
2. The Father who is here supplicated is not the All-father of the 18th century or of the rationalists, nor the Father of the heathen. For He is not that weak father, who on account of His goodness consents to withdraw all the demands of His righteousness; nor is He merely the Creator, as if He were, like Jupiter, a father of the trees and animals, of the flowers of earth and the stars of heaven, as well as of angels and men, and as if the idea of “Father” included only that of the Creator, who calls into being. The father is more than the begetter, he is also the provider, the teacher, the guardian in preserving sacred love. Where such paternal care exists, it comes from God, it points to Him, the original Father. Even the most scanty traces of such fatherhood, i.e., of such companies with a father at their hand, point to Him, who has ordained and still sustains such relations. The children may be lost and not permit Him to work within them; still traces of Him, kindnesses from Him are so little wanting, that even among the heathen “an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God,” points to them. The Church sings and speaks of a λόγος σπερματικός, and sees a great family in different groups, in different circumstances, conditions and attitudes, but at the head, over all and for all the One Father in Christ.
3. The inner man (ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος) is the remnant of the man created in the image of God, which is found in all men, even though extremely disfigured or shrivelled up into insignificance. On this account is Redemption possible, man is capable as well as in need of redemption. Hence the inner man is to be thus distinguished from the new man (ὄ καινὸς ἄνθρωπος): the former is the remnant of the original man as created by God in His own image, the latter is the beginning of the regenerated man, new born in Christ; that is still present in all men, this not yet existing in all, though it might and should be; that is found without the Church also, this begins only within it; the former is the starting-point for the latter, the latter is the result of the reviving of the former obtained in Christ; that is the first creation, conceived in retrospect, this the “new creature,” conceived as rising; the former is accordingly of nature, which God in holy love has created, preserved and guided, the latter of grace, in which He has had mercy upon the former. But universal as the need of redemption and the capacity for redemption are, man is, on account of this need and in spite of this capability, not in a condition to win the gracious right of sonship, or obligated thereto (SCHENKEL), but on account of this need notwithstanding this capability only in a state to receive the gift of renewed sonship. See Exeg. Notes, Eph 3:16.
4. In the economy of salvation,—in which our passage, being addressed to believers, presupposes justification and antecedent repentance, and regards only the growing renewal, the strengthening of the inner man, his growth in the grace and truth of Christ—the Father constantly, at every stage, takes the initiative, and the recovering man takes no step forward without power received from God. Hence the supplication, that He would “grant” and that too “through His Spirit” to the inner man: thus the renewal within begins from above. Then the awakened, renewed power of the inner man appears in faith, in dependence draws Christ into himself, into his heart, as a guest into his house, for continued intercourse with Him, carefully directing himself by Him in all respects. The inner man, when once, he has actually, with saving effect, become the object (εἰς) of the working of the Holy Ghost, becomes the subject of transforming activity in faith, which like a screw binds Christ to the soul. Though we may not, with the mystics, accept a union essentialis et corporalis, still we should not, with the rationalists, deny the conjunctio substantiæ hominis fidelis cum substantia sanctæ trinitatis and affirm only a dynamic or operative presence of Christ.
5. The work of salvation is a difficult one, and demands the power of God and man. Of God: hence Paul prays (Eph 3:16): “that he would grant you according to the riches of His glory.” Of man: hence Eph 3:18: “that ye may be fully able.”
6. Knowledge and Love are not to be separated. There is not merely an “illumination” before conversion and repentance, but also after justification through faith. In the enjoyment of the love of Christ, which we experience, our lovers strengthened, forgetting itself and yet with a profound remembrance of itself it knows what it has experienced, denying itself it is thus strengthened to a clear knowledge of the love of Christ. Human things one must know, in order to love but Divine things one must love, in order to know (PASCAL). Love, hastening before, ever gains new material and light for knowledge. “The more I love, the more I find that I ought to love Thee.”
7. The connection of faith and love is also presupposed here, and in such a way that the former is the mother’s lap for the latter; the faith in that love of God in Christ, which we experience and enjoy, must impel to love, to love in return again and again.
8. Christ’s Love surpasses all knowledge and understanding, that only toilsomely attains to seeing. HOFMANN: “There is really but one love in the world, because but one actual entering in of person into person. The eternally personal God, who is Love, who has entered into humanity as the personal Christ, who in the Holy Ghost personally flows into the personal life of men, so that we have Him and are His, He loves and is loved. Only where this archetypal fountain of love exists, can man exercise toward his fellow man a copied love.” Only so far as it is felt, can it be known in our weakness.
9. The completion of fellowship with God points into eternity, from the militant to the triumphant church; there the children become heritors, are taken on His throne and heart. Here many radial lines already proceed from the circumference, grace, peace and joy, truth and freedom, sonship and the sense of sonship, life-power and life-fulness, yet they come together in the center only above. Let us only hold fast to the unity of the family of God in heaven and on earth, the oneness of the Father through Christ in the Holy Ghost.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Had not the Apostle said so, no one would have discovered from his tone, that he was in bonds and chains, looking death in the face. To him affliction is a clear winter night, in which the stars of promise only shine the brighter. Has he tears in his eyes, they become a telescope to carry his sight into the far distant heavens, to open heaven to him and permit him to gaze into the depth of its wonders. It does not occur to him, to pray for release; he asks only for the perfecting and ennobling of the church.—In outward woe he thinks, feels and prays about inward weal alone; in evil, that concerns himself, about the good of the church alone.—God, the true Father, is not nearer to heaven with its angels and saints than to earth with its sons of men; were we but nearer to Him!—He is the Rich One, who can and will give; we are the poor ones, who should receive and—will not!—It were better if thou didst not care so much how to adorn the outer man through the spirit of the world and of fashion; God can through His Spirit re-animate and strengthen the inner man.—Above all see how it stands within thee, so that what God has created after His image in thee be not stunted and starved out. Thine outer man may laugh and sing and dance, while the inner man laments and sighs and goes to destruction.
Christ wishes to dwell with thee, not as a mere passing guest; so order thy work and recreation and mode of life after His example, that it may please Him to dwell there and not to hasten away. He is willing to belong to thee; it is not enough then that thou hearest Him, hearkenest to Him, thou must also belong to Him as His possession, must submit thyself and all thou hast to His disposal.—Bind thyself in faith to Him and hold communion with those who believe in Him, that thou mayest grow in the knowledge of His love. Root thyself ever deeper in that love, ground thyself ever more firmly upon it.—Do like Ernest the Pious, who in 1636 had a medal struck in commemoration of his marriage with Elizabeth Sophia of Altenburg, with this inscription on the one side: Christum lieben ist das beste wissen (Living Christ is the best knowledge), and on the other: Gott, lehr erkennen mich und Dich (God, teach me to know myself and Thee)!—Holy love alone lets us understand and use the Scriptures ever better and better! If we look at God’s word and world without love; we see them only remotely.—Three-fold aim of Christian supplication: 1. Strengthening of the inner man; 2. Knowledge of the love of Christ; 3. Fulness of Divine glory.
STARKE:—In praying the outward posture is indeed of little importance; it is left to Christian liberty to take this or that position with the body; yet no kind of posture seems better fitted for fervent, earnest prayer, than kneeling.—Thou hast indeed a merciful, gracious and loving Father: Thinkest thou, He can ever forsake thee? That is an idle thought. As little as He can take Love out of His heart so little can He forget thee. See, what is the best thing a teacher can ask for his flock; but also what thou too, O soul, must seek after, to be strengthened through the Spirit of God in the inner man.—It is not enough to have come into a state of grace through conversion, there must be added a strengthening and fortifying, which however is not the work of man, since Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Though our sins were so broad, so long, so deep, so high, as heaven and earth, yet is the grace and mercy of God deeper, broader, higher and longer, so that it cannot be measured.—The mystery of the love of God is incomprehensible: in future perfection we will understand it. Because we still await that time, let us meanwhile imitate such love in its depth, by helping those who are in the deepest misery and least deserving; in its breadth, by showing to all men without distinction, for God’s sake, kindness and affection, in its length, by never ceasing or becoming weary; in its height, by looking up to God, devoting to Him all our efforts, and having His glory as our purpose.—In Christianity more depends upon taking in faith, than upon giving and doing in love. For the more we take of the fulness of God, the more we can give.
A. MUELLER:—He who lets Christ dwell in his heart, only that, he may have from Him a household blessing or a joyful consolation, sells Him his heart; but he who surrenders himself to Christ out of pure love, at the same time thinking himself unworthy of the least look of His grace, gives Him his heart.
RIEGER:—God oftentimes indeed begins in a very small way in His works of grace, because He will effect nothing according to absolute power, but so as to lead men to faith and obedience.—Christ dwelling in the heart, and His Spirit lay claim also to the members of the body, putting them into the service of righteousness, to bring forth fruit unto God in holiness.—Being rooted and grounded in love we obtain the ability to comprehend, not merely to know, but also with other powers of soul so to appropriate something as to be filled therewith. Faith widens the heart, so that more and more can be grasped. But with these enlarged views, which are imparted to us, we should not sunder ourselves from other saints, nor attach to anything such an immoderate value, as to sever the bond which unites us with other saints, but apply all to the edification of the body of Christ.
HEUBNER:—It is a truly proud misery of Kant’s, his denying kneeling as a slavish Orientalism. He can scarcely have felt the impulse of a praying heart. Lichtenberg judges very differently, when he says: “When the body falls upon its knees, the spirit lifts itself to God.”—We have too little bending of the knee; the Catholics perhaps too much, so that a Catholic may occasionally be recognized by the looks of his clothes at the knees. Spener wished that kneeling devotion was more common among us.—What a comfort for fatherless children and widows, what hope for affectionate fathers, to know that their dear children hare in heaven a better Father than themselves. Still the human relation can best teach the true “Father-theology.”—A church can be good outwardly and apparently and yet be without inward life. This inward life comes from the Spirit of God. Christianity should be learned not by heart, but in the heart.42—Christ will dwell, not in stone churches, but in living hearts; the heart should live and move in Him, His Spirit should animate our spirit in constant intercourse with Him.—When Christ dwells in the heart, every one has his Christ in his neighbor.—Breadth: the Church of Christ should stretch itself over the whole circle of the earth, over all lands. The length refers to time; she continues throughout all centuries. The depth points to her foundation; she has it in the unfathomable abyss of Divine mercy, and her height reaches into heaven, it is unassailable, for the church on earth and in the spirit world is one. This is the greatness and the origin of the spiritual temple.—Love to Christ, a simple heart full of faith and love to Him, is better than all science. This love has an unconditioned value, is in itself the highest: not so with knowledge; it can give a kind of enlightenment, without at all affecting the heart. The heart excels the understanding. Science should not be over-estimated, and made an idol. Science can never conquer the enemies of the Kingdom of God, she should be a handmaid. The true science is only where the cross is. Only the theologus crucis is the theologus lucis.
PASSAVANT:—With a narrow heart we cannot pray with confidence. Hence everything demands that we should receive Divine riches, which enlightens our mind, expands our heart and makes God great in us.—How worthy of admiration, how highly exalted above man is this inner man of the heart! Faith is his reason and his light; love his heart and his life; the Holy Ghost his soul and strength; Jesus Christ his ego and his nature; God his Father and at the same time his heritage, his glory, his riches, his eternal dwelling-place; God makes him, His work in His own good time, and this through a power whose working corresponds with the riches and the glory of His grace.—Did Christ dwell in us, what would we become to our friends, to our enemies, to the world, to the heavens!—Only the Spirit of God in us can disclose to us what God is; only faith, through the Holy Ghost, can apprehend Christ and His life in us; only pure, holy love in us can comprehend what is transcendent and blissful, the wonders of the love of God in Jesus Christ.—There is a breadth and length and depth and height; for this no worlds are too broad, no paths too long, no space too wide, no abyss, no hell too deep, no heaven too high, that it may not reach thither, and penetrate there with might and almightiness, with light and life, with comfort and salvation and peace from eternal compassion—“fulness of God” the destination and end of man, the aim and end of all the decrees of God, of all the mysteries of Christ. Canst thou not satisfy man? Must he still fill himself with a thousand trifles besides, that his happiness may be complete?
STIER:—The higher his petition seeks to ascend above all understanding to Him, who is able to do above all, the deeper he bows himself.—The indwelling of Christ: Its beginning—through faith; means—Christ’s love, which becomes ours; aim—according to the widest extension of the plan (knowledge) and inmost depths of the foundation (Christ’s love).
GERLACH:—The love of Christ to us precedes all our love and knowledge.
NITZSCH:—The essential petition, which we, each for all and all for each, should bear in our hearts, during the varieties and vicissitudes of our life-path. 1. Its purport: a) To become strong in the inner man; b) To have vital fellowship with the Redeemer; c) To know His love. 2. The effect.
WOLTERS (Dedication sermon at Godesberg): The proper prayer for a young congregation: 1) that its members become strong in the inner man: 2) that Christ lives in their hearts; 3) that they understand His love in its greatness and blessedness.
GENZKEN (Preparatory Lecture43 on Eph. 3:13–21): St. Paul our example in prayer. 1) He bows his knees, so we under the burden of our guilt; 2) He addresses himself to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; so there is no other name for us; 3) He asks power for the inner man to strengthen in faith, in love, and for every good work; so we.
LÖHE:—St. Paul’s request to the Ephesians, his prayer to God, his song of praise to Him, all in relation to the great mystery of building the church on earth.
WESTERMEIER:—The best prayer: 1) to whom it is addressed; 2) the gifts it desires; 3) the basis on which it rests.
KLUGE:—Seek the kingdom of God, not in external things, but in the inner man—1) in judging of the contest of the gospel against the world; 2) of the blessing of the gospel in yourselves.
RABUS:—A glance into the closet of the Apostle: 1) How we should approach God in prayer; 2) how supplicate Him; 3) how praise Him.
RAUTENBERG:—What Paul does in his tribulations, that his disciples may not become weary in the walk of faith: 1) He is far from them—yet sends them his mighty word; 2) He suffers the contempt of the world—but endures it for their glory; 3) He cannot give them his hand, but he bows his knee for them.
DR. MEIER (Baptismal discourse on Eph 3:18): On the breadth, length, depth, height of the love of God.
PRÖHLE:—Paul’s pious wish for the Church at Ephesus: 1. That they might not become weary in their Christian course (Eph 3:13). 2. That God would give them power to become strong in the inner man (Eph 3:14–16). 3. That Christ may dwell in their hearts (Eph 3:17). 4. That they may be able to comprehend with all saints the breadth=the universality, embracing all, the length=the endlessness from eternity to eternity, the depth and height=the immeasurable and incomprehensible greatness of the love of Christ.
[HODGE:—The most beautiful object might be in the apartment of a blind man, and he not be sensible of its presence; or if by any means made aware of its nearness, he could have no delight in its beauty. Christ dwells in us by faith, because it is by faith we perceive His presence, His excellence and His glory, and because it is by faith we appropriate and reciprocate the manifestations of His love. Faith is to this spiritual communion what esteem and affection are to the fellowship of domestic life.—The love of Christ is infinite; not only because it inheres in an infinite subject, but because the condescension and sufferings to which it led, and the blessings which it secures for its objects, are beyond our comprehension.—R.]
Eph 3:15. They lose the cold and official name of subjects in the familiar and endearing appellation of sons, and they are united to one another not dimly and unconsciously, as different products of the same Divine workman-ship, but they merge into one family—“all they are brethren.”
Eph 3:17. When Ignatius was asked, on his trial, by the Emperor, what was the meaning of his name—Theophorus—he promptly replied, “He who has Christ in his breast.”—Love is the fundamental grace.
Eph 3:19. As the attachment of a man, it may be gauged; but as the love of a God, who can by searching find it out? Uncaused itself, it originated salvation; unresponded to amidst the “contradiction of sinners,” it neither pined nor collapsed. It led from Divine immortality to human agonies and dissolution, for the victim was bound to the cross, not by the nails of the military executioner, but by the “cords of love.” It loved repulsive unloveliness, and, unnourished by reciprocated attachment, its ardor was unquenched, nay, is unquenchable, for it is changeless as the bosom in which it dwells. Thus it may be known, while yet it “passeth knowledge;” thus it may be experimentally known, while still in its origin and glory it surpasses comprehension, and presents new and newer phases to the loving and inquiring spirit. For one may drink of the spring and be refreshed, and his eye may take in at one view its extent and circuit, while he may be able neither to fathom the depth nor mete out the volume of the ocean whence it has its origin.—R.]
Eph 3:14.—[The phrase: τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, which follows πατήρ in 1:3; Col. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:3; Rom. 15:6, should be rejected here. The weight of diplomatic authority is against it (omitted in א1 A. B. C. 17, 67; found in א3 D. F. K. L. and all other cursives). A number of fathers reject it (Jerome expressly speaks of the omission), while the best versions retain it. It is scarcely credible, as De Wette urges, that it was omitted because coming between παρέρα and πατριά, since it really disturbs the rhythmical connection; while on the other hand no addition would be more likely than this from the common formula. If internal grounds have any weight, it must be rejected. So Lachmann, Tischendorf, Rückert, Harless, Meyer, Olshausen, Alford, Ellicott; Eadie inclines to this view. Reiche and De Wette retain it, as does Hodge, who says: “the majority of recent editions and commentators retain them,” a statement surprisingly unwarranted.—R.]
Eph 3:16.—[The Rec. reads δῴη with D. K. L., and most fathers, but δῷ (א. A. B. C. F.) is to be preferred. Comp. 1:17.—R.]
Eph 3:16.—[Here also as in 1:7; 2:7; 3:8, the Rec. gives the masculine form (D.3 K. L., cursives), but א. A. B. C. D.1 F. support the neuter.—R.]
Eph 3:17.—[Another view of the construction requires the following translation: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, ye having been rooted and grounded in love, in order that,” etc. See Exegetical Notes.—R.]
Eph 3:18.—[The order of the Rec. (βάθος καὶ ὕψος) is sustained by א. A. K. L., most cursives; adopted by Tischendorf, Ellicott, Meyer and Braune, as lectio difficilior. B. C. D. E. F. G., most versions, give the reverse order, which as more natural and prevalent (Rom. 8:39) is open to suspicion. It is accepted by Lachmann, Alford and others.—R.]
[ELLICOTT renders: “From whom every race in heaven and on earth is thus named,” while the German text of Braune runs thus in a literal translation: “whose name every family in heaven and on earth bears.”—R.]
[So BODIUS and HODGE, both insisting upon the exclusive reference to the redeemed. The argument of the latter rests altogether on the incorrect reading he accepts. Admitting that the omission of the article favors the rendering: “every family,” he adds that it may still be omitted where the sense is “the whole family,” provided the context is so clear as to prevent mistake. But it is not so clear, else the great body of commentators would not have mistaken it; hence the condition is not met. Besides the context does not teach, except critical judgments are to give way to exegetical preferences, “that those who are here contemplated as children, are those who are by Jesus Christ brought into this relation to God.” “Consequently” it ought not to be affirmed that “the word πατριά cannot include any but the subjects of redemption.”—Undoubtedly there is an underlying thought of redemption; “it is not in virtue of God’s creative power that the Apostle here prays to Him, but in virtue of His adoptive love in Christ” (ALFORD). The thought of an “All-Father” is remote enough, but any unnecessary limitation of πᾶσα πατριά is at the same time a limitation of the wider results of Redemptive Love so frequently hinted at by Paul and not very remote here (Eph 3:10). ALFORD: “The Apostle seems, regarding God as the Father of us His adopted children, to go forth into the fact, that He, in this His relation to us, is in reality the great original and proto-type of the paternal relation, wherever found.” And in an ethical sense this relation may be readily conceived of as existing in heaven among other than those redeemed from earth—R.]
[Dr. HODGE, very sweepingly, intimates that all those interpretations which distinguish this “inner man” from the renewed man, belong to “the theory of Semi-Pelagianism, embodied and developed in the theology of the Church of Rome.” But this is based on a mere assumption, viz., that this view of “the inner man” as the seat of spiritual influences implies the actual sinlessness and unfallen status of “that inner man,” an implication distinctly denied by many of the supporters of this theory, among whom are expositors, who cannot be classed among the advocates of Semi-Pelagianism. I append the statement of ELLICOTT, which agrees with my own view, referred to above: “The expression ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος (Rom. 7:22) is nearly identical with, but somewhat more inclusive than ὁ κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος (1 Pet. 3:4), and stands in antithesis to ὁ ἔξω ἄνθρωπος (2 Cor. 4:16); the former being practically equivalent to the νοῦς or higher nature of man (Rom. 7:23), the latter to the σάρξ or μέλη: see BECK, Seelenlehre, III. 21, 3, p. 68. It is within this ἔσω ἄνθρωπος that the powers of regeneration are exercised (HARLESS, Christl. Ethik, § 22a), and it is from their operation in this province that the whole man (‘secunda interna spectatus,’ Bengel) becomes a νέος ἄνθρωπος (as opposed to a former state), or a καινὸς ἄνθρωπος (as opposed to a former corrupt state), and is either ὁ κατὰ Θεὸν κτισθείς (Eph 4:24), or ὁ ἀνακαινούμενος εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατʼ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν (Col. 3:10), according to the point of view under which regeneration is regarded. The distinction between this and the partially synonymous terms πνεῦμα and νοῦς may perhaps be thus roughly stated: πνεῦμα is simply the highest of the three parts of which man is composed; νοῦς the πνεῦμα regarded more in its moral and intellectual aspects, ‘quatenus intelligit, cogitat, et vult;’ ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος the πνεῦμα or rather the whole immaterial portion, considered in its theological aspects, and as the seat of the inworking powers of grace.” To which may be added that owing to the fact that πνεῦμα has also a second meaning (the human spirit as inwrought upon by the Divine Spirit), Paul does not use it in Rom. 7:7–25, but rather νοῦς and ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος. This view of the phrase is adopted by EADIE and ALFORD, and may be regarded as the prevalent one in Germany, perhaps now among English commentators.—R.]
[EADIE thus states his view: The change of syntax indicates a change of connection, and the use of the irregular nominative makes the transition easy to the form adopted with ἵνα. The clause thus changed becomes a species of independent proposition, giving a marked prominence to the sense, and connected at once with the preceding context as its result, and with the following context as its starting idea. So ELLICOTT, who in his translation puts a dash before and after the clause. The course of thought then is: “Christ dwelling in their hearts—they are supposed, as the effect of this inhabitation, to have been now rooted and grounded in love; and as the design of this confirmation in love—they are then and there qualified to comprehend,” etc. This construction is certainly admissible, although HARLESS is fanciful in accounting for it by the reference to both the dative and genitive which precede. MEYER presents the forcible objection that the present participles would occur were this the connection. When to this it is replied, “that the clause does express the state which must ensue upon the indwelling of Christ before what is expressed in the next clause can in any way be realized, and that therefore the perf. part. is correctly used” (ELLICOTT), I find in this but a confession of that subordinate relation of the clause to the next one, which is implied in the other view. If the ideas are so nearly similar, a trajection seems a better explanation, than to complicate the relation of the clauses further (we have already a leading clause in Eph 3:14, a clause of purport in Eph 3:16, containing a finite verb followed by an infinitive, on which infinitive a clause of result depends, Eph 3:17. The view under discussion would make an irregular sub-subordinate clause of result to be followed (Eph 3:18) by a clause of design, which the other view would append directly to the purport of the prayer). On the other hand this metathesis is open to objection. Such a trajection implies an emphasis on the words thrown in advance, and it is asserted that there is no necesssity for such emphasis here, but this is no real objection, since the words can be emphatic (notwithstanding ALFORD’S denial). Again, it is said that the premised words in all such cases form the objective factor of the sentence and are not connected with the subject as here (ELLICOTT). ELLICOTT’S remark is true as regards the other cases where ἵνα is trajected, but in 2 Thess. 2:7, ἕως is put after the subject, which it not strictly parallel, is certainly analogous.—R.]
[ The German has a similar paronomasia: Man soll das Christenthum nicht auswendig, sondern inwendig lernen.—R.]
[Beichtrede is literally a discourse at confession but among Protestants means the service preparatory to the communion, during the previous week. The etymology confirms the view, that our preparatory lecture is borrowed from the Romanist usage of confessing before the communion, though in reality a proper mode of obeying the injunction: Let a man examine himself.—R.]
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,3. Conclusion in the form of a Doxology
(EPH 3:20, 21)
20Now unto [to] him that [who] is able to do [above all things], exceeding abundantly above all that [above what] we ask or think, according to the power that 21worketh in us, Unto [to] him be [the] glory in the church by [in]44 Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end [lit., unto all the generations of the age of the ages]. Amen.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
In general the doxology is frequent, either at the beginning (1:3–14; 1 Pet. 1:3–5), or at the close of an Epistle (Rom. 16:25–27; Phil. 4:20; 2 Tim. 4:18; 1 Pet. 5:11; Jude 25; Heb. 13:21), or at the close of a section, as here, Rom. 11:33–36; Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:17.
Eph 3:20. Now to him who is able to do above all things—Τῷδὲ45 δυναμένῳ stands emphatically first, because the matter in hand is the manifestation of God’s power and almightiness (Eph 3:16: δυνάμει Eph 3:18: ἐξισχύσητε). With the infinitive ποιῆσαι [“to do,” to effect], we must closely connect ὑπὲρ πάντα “above all,” under which we should understand creatures, powers and events, which may act in a hindering, disturbing or destructive way.
Exceeding abundantly above what we ask or think [ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὦν αἰτούμεθα ἤ νοοῦμεν].—In this added qualification the Apostle places God’s almightiness in comparison with his prayer, and that in a most striking manner. Hence ὑπετρεκπερισσοῦ, found also in 1 Thes. 3:10, 5:13 [a.]. Similar expressions, strengthening the sense, occur in Eph. 1:21; 4:10; Rom. 5:20; 2 Cor. 7:4, 13; 11:5; 12:11; 1 Tim. 1:14; Mark 7:37; 14:31; 6:51. In its comparative signification it governs, as in Eph 3:19: ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως the genitive ὦν, which is=τῶν ἃ αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν. BENGEL: Cogitatio latius patet quam preces; gradatio. God is greater than our heart (1 John 3:20). CHRYSOSTOM: ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ εὔχομαι, αὐτὸς δὲ καὶ χωρὶς τῆς ἐμῆς εὐχῆς μείζονα ἐργάσεται τῶν ἡμετέρων αἰτήσεων οὐχ ἁπλῶς μείζονα ἢ ἐκ περισσοῦ ἀλλʼ ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, τὸ μέγεθος ἐμφαίνων τῆς δωρεᾶς.
[The relative does not refer to πάντα; it introduces a new but related subject. The two phrases are not in apposition, but the second member explains the first. There is no tautology therefore, since subjoined to the expression of God’s super-abundant power, we have a definition of the mode in which it displays itself, viz., by conferring spiritual gifts in super-abundance (EADIE). There is no hyperbole as HARLESS thinks, though Paul has such a marked predilection for ὑπέρ and its compounds; it “occurs nearly thrice as many times in Paul’s Epistles and that to the Hebrews as in the rest of the New Testament; and of the 28 words compounded with ὑπέρ, 22 are found in these Epistles, and 20 of them there alone.—R.]
According to the power that worketh [or is working] in us, κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμἐνην ἐν ἡμῖν.—This belongs to the phrase: “able to do.” The present middle participle marks the continued efficiency of His power, while “in us” indicates both the object and the sphere of activity. Paulus allegat ezperientiam (BENGEL) and full of confidence turns from the beginning to the future. Comp. Col. 1:29. Miraculous gifts (MICHAEL) are not referred to, nor should ὑπὲρ πάντα, “above all,” be limited to quæ hactenus visa sunt (GROTIUS), or the preposition ὑπὲρ be taken adverbially (BENGEL), as in 2 Cor. 11:23 alone. [The power, so frequently referred to in this Epistle, is the might of the indwelling Spirit. The middle (comp. Gal. 5:6) is used mainly in non-personal references; see WINER, p. 242.—R.]
Eph 3:21. To him be the glory, αὐτῷἡ δόξα.—The pronoun sums up vigorously and emphatically what is predicated in Eph 3:20. The dative denotes that the glory is due, will be given to Him (Luke 17:18; John 9:24; Acts 12:23; Rom. 4:20; 1 Pet. 1:21; Acts 4:9, 11:13; 14:7; 16:9; 19:7). [So most commentators]. Accordingly the article, ἡδόξα does not indicate the “glory,” which He has (HARLESS); in that case the pronoun αὐτοῦ would occur, as in the interpolated doxology at the close of the Lord’s prayer: ὅτι σοῦ ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία, κ. τ. λ. But it is the glory of the church, which indeed she has first from God, but which as received from Him, properly His and yet appropriated by her, she returns to Him with gratitude and praise. It is not=ἔπαινος, praise, which consists in words, nor=τομή, honor, which consists in the judgment of those who praise, but refers to the life, worship, and character of the church. Comp. 1:12, 14: εἰς ἔπαινον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, “unto the praise of his glory.” It is most natural to supply ἔστω.
In the church in Christ Jesus, [ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ].—The preposition ἐν before τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ points to the sphere in which the glory of God is given back, defining more closely either the omitted ἔστω or ἡ δόξα. By ἡ ἐκκλησία, “the church,” we should understand the assembly of those in whom God’s power has become efficient and works (Eph 3:20: “in us”); it is accordingly no external region (MEYER), which is indifferent internally, and beside which an inner spiritual sphere is to be indicated (ἐν Χριστῷ); the church is indeed herself such a sphere. Hence the phrase “in Christ Jesus,” defines more closely the church, its character and status, in order to explain, in what church the glory can and shall be given to God. Luther has rendered it properly as one notion: die in Christo Jesu lebendige Gemeinde (the church alive in Christ Jesus).
[To this interpretation, which is that of OLSHAUSEN, STIER and others, it is properly objected that such a definition of the church is altogether unnecessary. If καί be accepted (see Textual Note) this exegesis is inadmissible. Nor is the view of MEYER (with HARLESS, DE WETTE, EADIE, HODGE, ALFORD and ELLICOTT) open to the objection urged by Braune that it presents an external region internally indifferent. The sphere of the giving of glory is defined in a twofold manner: “It is offered in the church, but it is, at the same time offered ‘in Christ Jesus,’ or presented by the members of the sacred community in the consciousness of union with Him” (EADIE); “if any glory comes from us to God it is in Christ.” The repetition of ἐν seems to point to such a meaning, even if καί be omitted.—R.] Hence it is not=to διὰ Χριστοῦ (GROTIUS); comp. Col. 3:17; Rom. 1:18; 7:25. [CALVIN, BEZA AND RUECKERT: per Christum; E. V.: “by Christ Jesus;” σὺν Χριστῷ (ŒCUMENIUS), all alike objectionable, for even the instrumental sense of iv is not exactly=διά, and the proper sense of the preposition is the more necessary because it occurs for the second time.—R.]
Unto all the generations of the age of the ages, [εἰς πάσας τὰςγενεὰς τοῦ αἰωνοςτων αἰώνων, ἀμήν͂].—The phrase εἰςπάσας τὰς γενεάς designates the successive groups which are added to this church; γενεαί designates the groups of living persons. Now, at the time when Paul writes, the beginning has been made, the first γενεά, “generation,” which reflects Godward the glory, the light in and from His light, is present; and thus it should and will continue, hence εἰς, “unto.” It is=εἰς γενεὰν καὶ γενεάν, or εἰς γενεὰς γενεῶν (Luke 1:50, various reading); this repetition expressing the same idea as πᾱσαι; “the iterative form of the expression indicated the extension” (HARLESS).
The phrase τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων defines to what these γενεαί belong and extend, in omnes generationes, quæ complectitur ὁ αἰών, qui terminatur in τοῦς αἰῶνας perpetuos (BENGEL), Ὁ αἰών marks the unity or totality of passing time, which at the same time includes eternity. We have no word which indicates both, as the Greeks had. [True in both English and German]. BENGEL: αἰῶνες periodi œconomiæ divinæ ab una quasi scena ad aliam decurrentes; hic amplificantur causa utrumque vocabulum, cum metaphora in γενεά, generatio, conjungitur, ut significetur tempus bene longum; nam in αἰῶσι non jam sunt GENERATIONES. Paul says therefore, that the church now begun shall continue through a long series of generations; begun on earth it will be developed throughout these generations, and even when generations shall cease, shall continue in æons, without succession of generations, and these generations and those æons (in which new generations are not added, but the constituent ones continue permanently) form a whole, one αἰών, the αἰὼν μέλλων. Instead of this full formula we find only εἰς τοῦς αἰῶνας, Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 16:27; Luke 1:33; 2 Cor. 11:31; or αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Pet. 5:11. Rev. 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10, etc.; εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας Jude 25; εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, Matth. 21:19; Mark 11:14, etc.; εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, Heb. 1:8. Comp. Doctr. Notes, 5, 6.
[Only the most extravagant literalism can exclude the idea of eternity from this cumulative expression, and only the most forced exegesis can include “distinct traces of gnosticism.” HARLESS makes a subtle distinction between αἰῶνες τῶν αἰῶνων and αἰὼν τῶν αἰώνων, taking the former as more extensive, the latter intensive, for which there is little room here. MEYER is perhaps too literal in his view of γενεαί, which Braune apparently adopts. ALFORD is satisfactory: “Probably the account of the meaning is, that the age of ages (eternity) is conceived as containing ages, just as our ‘age’ contains years; and then those ages are thought of as made up, like ours, of generations. It is used, by a transfer of what we know in time, to express, imperfectly and indeed improperly, the idea of Eternity.”—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. God’s Omnipotence is unlimited, if we leave out of view His own will: He can do what He will (Ps. 115:3).
2. God’s power works in His people (ἐν ὑμῖν, Eph 3:20), not merely over them, and about them; for they do not resist Him with that will which He has given from His own will to those created in His image. He will not, with His omnipotence, force any into the Church in Christ Jesus, into salvation. Man has might to resist God’s Almightiness within himself. [The limitation or extension of meaning which theologians of different schools may put upon this last sentence, need not be discussed here. Given free-will, the sacred right of personality, and it is true in some sense—awfully true, since this is the fearful price of our privilege as free men. How God’s Almightiness, notwithstanding, never fails of its purpose, we do not know; that it never does, lies at the foundation of all proper theology.—R.]
3. The Essence of worship is the thankful return of what God has bestowed and the recipient has accepted and appropriated; hence the approach of the recipient to the Bestower, in gratitude for the gift, praise for the Giver; the deepest ground of adoration is, however, the condescending grace and imparting love of the Almighty God. He who is blessed begins to bless the Blesser (1:3) and ends in praise of the God of glory (3:20, 21).
4. The true Church, a creation of God (Eph 3:20), a living congregation, an assembly of sanctified persons, is Christian, having and needing no other Mediator than Christ Jesus, proving and defining the relation to the church according to the relation to Him.
5. The Christian Church has a history, a development through a long series of generations even into eternity. HOFMANN (Sehriftbeweis, II. 2, p. 127) retains the καί before ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ and thinks the glorifying of God “in the church” takes place only in time and on earth, but “in Christ” eternally, as though the church were a temporal thing and nothing more. [EADIE: “The obligation to glorify God lasts through, eternity, and the glorified church will ever delight in rendering praise, ‘as is most due.’ Eternal perfection will sustain an eternal an them.”—R.]
6. The Church of Jesus Christ does not find her final issue in the State (ROTHE), or in a higher grade of culture;46 she has a rising without a setting. Rescued through all the changes of national life, she is herself the rescuer of individuals, and of larger groups as well, unto the future of eternity.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Prayer is no limit to God’s working in thee, but a condition, which He Himself has appointed, without which thou canst not experience His almighty grace.—Thou art a creature of God, and shouldst become a work of His, praising the Master hand in word and deed, and above all in private character and conduct.—“Exceeding abundantly!” Hagar asked a drop and found a well (Gen. 21:19); Saul sought his father’s asses and found a crown (1 Sam. 9:3; 10:1); David asked bread and received a kingdom (1 Sam. 21:3).
STARKE: God does more than we desire. Joseph wishes only to be free from the iron chains: behold, God not only does what he desires, but gives him golden chains besides.
HEUBNER:—In the synagogues, mosques, and pagodas there is no true praise of God, nor yet in our churches, if Christ be not known.—The prayer of Paul for the church (Eph 3:13–21). 1. It was prompted by the impulse of love (Eph 3:13). 2. Full of confidence toward God, the Father of all churches (Eph 3:14, 15). 3. It was holy in its purport (Eph 3:16–19). 4. Hopeful, certain of hearing (Eph 3:20, 21).—God the true Father. 1. Exposition: a) He is not only the physical Creator and Upholder, but b) spiritual Father (Eph 3:14–16). 2. Ground of our belief in this: a) not mere reason and experience, but b) the gospel of Christ (Eph 3:17, 18). 3. Power of this belief: a) it attracts our heart to God (Eph 3:18), so that we understand God’s heart, b) it strengthens unto obedience, c) it gives comfort and hope (Eph 3:19–21).—The intimate fellowship of the Apostles and their churches as an example for us.—The inner growth of a Christian church.
RIEGER: What occurs to each one at his conversion and during his daily renewal, is as good an evidence of the “exceeding abundant” power of God, as what occurs in the creation, preservation and government of all things.
[EADIE:—The Trinity is here again brought out to view. The power within us is that of the Spirit, and glory in Christ is presented to the Father who answers prayer through the Son, and by the Spirit; and, therefore, to the Father, in the Son, and by the Spirit, is offered this glorious minstrelsy: “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”—R.]
[] Eph 3:21.—After ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ א. A. B. C. insert καί before ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. A few authorities [D.1 F.] read: ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ (ἐν) τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, evidently from doctrinal hesitation about placing the church before Christ; in single minor authorities ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ is wanting. This arises from the inappropriate καί, which only disturbs, and although well supported externally, is inadmissible on internal grounds. It may be rejected, and is rejected by Tischendorf, on the authority of a number of important MSS. [These are D.2 K. L., besides the great majority of cursives, oldest versions, and many fathers. Rejected by Tischendorf, Meyer, and most, bracketted by Alford accepted by Lachmann, Ellicott (ed. 3, 4 only). Before the discovery of א. the internal grounds were sufficiently strong to outweigh the preponderant uncial testimony in its favor, but now the question is more doubtful. The sense is not affected materially by the variation, though the insertion precludes one interpretation. The word may have been inserted to indicate the other meaning, hence its omission presents a lectio difficilior.—R.]
[][ALFORD: “δέ brings out a slight contrast to what has just preceded—viz., ourselves, and our need of strength and our growth in knowledge and fulness,” but the contrast is not strong enough to justify our rendering the particle: “but.”—R.]
[] [When De Wette asks: “Was the Apostle warranted in expecting such a long duration for the Church?” he proves his utter want of sympathy with this Epistle, and abundantly justifies the criticism made on his commentary by ALFORD (see Introd. § 3, 5).—R.]