Ephesians 2:12
That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) This verse gives a dark and terrible picture of the former heathen condition of the Ephesians, intentionally contrasted in every point with the description of Christian privilege in Ephesians 2:19-20. That condition is first summed up in one expression. They were “separate from Christ.” Then from this are drawn two gloomy consequences: first (1), that they had no part in God’s special covenant, “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel,” and so “strangers to the (often repeated) covenants of the promise” of the Messiah; next (2), that, thus left in “the world,” they had “no hope” of spiritual life and immortality, and were “godless” in thought and act. For Christ is at once the end and substance of the covenant of Israel, and the Revealer of God, and therefore of spiritual life in man, to all mankind. To be without Him is to lose both covenant and light. On (1) it is to be noted that the word used is not “aliens,” but “alienated.” implying—what is again and again declared to us—that the covenant with Israel, as it was held in trust for the blessing of “all families of the earth,” so also was simply the true birthright of humanity, from which mankind had fallen. The first “covenant” in scripture (Genesis 9:8-17) is with the whole of the post-diluvian race, and is expressly connected with the reality of “the image of God” in man (Genesis 9:6). The succeeding covenants (as with Abraham, Moses, and David) all contain a promise concerning the whole race of man. Hence the Gentiles (as the utterances of prophecy showed more and more clearly while the ages rolled on) were exiles from what should have been their home; and their call into the Church of Christ was a restoration of God’s wandering children. In relation to (2) it is impossible not to observe, even in the highest forms of heathen philosophy, how their comparative “godlessness”—the absence of any clear notion of a real spiritual tie of nature between God and man—made their “hope” of life and immortality, though still cherished, shadowy and uncertain, always stronger in itself than in its grounds. But St. Paul’s description ought to be applied strictly, not to heathen life in its nobler and purer forms, but to the heathen life of Asia Minor in his days. What that was in moral degradation and in loss of all spiritual religion, ill compensated by the inevitable proneness to various superstitions, all contemporary literature testifies. From it came, as the Romans declared, the corruption which overspread the whole empire, and which St. Paul describes so terribly in Romans 1:18-32.

2:11-13 Christ and his covenant are the foundation of all the Christian's hopes. A sad and terrible description is here; but who is able to remove himself out of it? Would that this were not a true description of many baptized in the name of Christ. Who can, without trembling, reflect upon the misery of a person, separated for ever from the people of God, cut off from the body of Christ, fallen from the covenant of promise, having no hope, no Saviour, and without any God but a God of vengeance, to all eternity? To have no part in Christ! What true Christian can hear this without horror? Salvation is far from the wicked; but God is a help at hand to his people; and this is by the sufferings and death of Christ.Ye were without Christ - You were without the knowledge of the Messiah. You had not heard of him; of course you had not embraced him. You were living without any of the hopes and consolations which you now have, from having embraced him. The object of the apostle is to remind them of the deplorable condition in which they were by nature; and nothing would better express it than to say they were "without Christ," or that they had no knowledge of a Saviour. They knew of no atonement for sin. They had no assurance of pardon. They had no well-founded hope of eternal life. They were in a state of darkness and condemnation, from which nothing but a knowledge of Christ could deliver them. All Christians may in like manner be reminded of the fact that, before their conversion, they were "without Christ." Though they had heard of him, and were constantly under the instruction which reminded them of him, yet they were without any true knowledge of him, and without any of the hopes which result from having embraced him. Many were infidels. Many were scoffers. Many were profane, sensual, corrupt. Many rejected Christ with scorn; many, by simple neglect. All were without any true knowledge of him; all were destitute of the peace and hope which result from a saving acquaintance with him. We may add, that there is no more affecting description of the state of man by nature than to say, he is without a Saviour. Sad would be the condition of the world without a Redeemer - sad is the state of that portion of mankind who reject him. Reader, are you without Christ?

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel - This is the second characteristic of their state before their conversion to Christianity. This means more than that they were not Jews. It means that they were strangers to that "polity" - πολιτεία politeia - or arrangement by which the worship of the true God had been kept up in the world, and of course were strangers to the true religion The arrangements for the public worship of Yahweh were made among the Jews. They had his law, his temple, his sabbaths, and the ordinances of his religion; see the notes at Romans 3:2. To all these the pagans had been strangers, and of course they were deprived of all the privileges which resulted from having the true religion. The word rendered here as "commonwealth" - πολιτεία politeia - means properly citizenship, or the right of citizenship, and then a community, or state. It means here that arrangement or organization by which the worship of the true God was maintained. The word "aliens" - ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι apēllotriōmenoi - here means merely that they were strangers to. It does not denote, of necessity, that they were hostile to it; but that they were ignorant of it, and were, therefore, deprived of the benefits which they might have derived from it, if they had been acquainted with it.

And strangers - This word - ξένος xenos - means properly a guest, or a stranger, who is hospitably entertained; then a foreigner, or one from a distant country; and here means that they did not belong to the community where the covenants of promise were enjoyed; that is, they were strangers to the privileges of the people of God.

The covenants of promise - see the notes at Romans 9:4. The covenants of promise were those various arrangements which God made with his people, by which he promised them future blessings, and especially by which he promised that the Messiah should come. To be in possession of them was regarded as a high honor and privilege; and Paul refers to it here to show that, though the Ephesians had been by nature without these, yet they had now been brought to enjoy all the benefits of them. On the word covenant, see the notes on Galatians 3:15. It may be remarked, that Walton (Polyglott) and Rosenmuller unite the word "promise" here with the word "hope" - "having no hope of the promise." But the more obvious and usual interpretation is that in our common version, meaning that they were not by nature favored with the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., by which there was a promise of future blessings under the Messiah.

Having no hope - The apostle does not mean to affirm that they did not cherish any hope, for this is scarcely true of any man; but that they were without any proper ground of hope. It is true of perhaps nearly all people that they cherish some hope of future happiness. But the ground on which they do this is not well understood by themselves, nor do they in general regard it as a matter worth particular inquiry. Some rely on morality; some on forms of religion; some on the doctrine of universal salvation; all who are impenitent believe that they do not "deserve" eternal death, and expect to be saved by "justice." Such hopes, however, must be unfounded. No hope of life in a future world can be founded on a proper basis which does not rest on some promise of God, or some assurance that he will save us; and these hopes, therefore, which people take up they know not why, are delusive and vain.

And without God in the world - Greek ἄθεοι atheoi - "atheists;" that is, those who had no knowledge of the true God. This is the last specification of their miserable condition before they were converted; and it is an appropriate crowning of the climax. What an expression! To be without God - without God in his own world, and where he is all around us! To have no evidence of his favor, no assurance of his love, no hope of dwelling with him! The meaning, as applied to the pagan Ephesians, was, that they had no knowledge of the true God. This was true of the pagan, and in an important sense also it is true of all impenitent sinners, and was once true of all who are now Christians. They had no God. They did not worship him, or love him, or serve him, or seek his favors, or act with reference to him and his glory. Nothing can be a more appropriate and striking description of a sinner now than to say that he is "without God in the world."

He lives, and feels, and acts, as if there were no God. He neither worships him in secret, nor in his family, nor in public. He acts with no reference to his will. He puts no confidence in his promises, and fears not when he threatens; and were it announced to him that there "is no God," it would produce no change in his plan of life, or in his emotions. The announcement that the emperor of China, or the king of Siam, or the sultan of Constantinople, was dead, would produce some emotion, and might change some of his commercial arrangements; but the announcement that there is no God would interfere with none of his plans, and demand no change of life. And, if so, what is man in this beautiful world without a God? A traveler to eternity without a God! Standing over the grave without a God! An immortal being without a God! A man - fallen, sunk, ruined, with no God to praise, to love, to confide in; with no altar, no sacrifice, no worship, no hope; with no Father in trial, no counselor in perplexity, no support in death! Such is the state of man by nature. Such are the effects of sin.

12. without Christ—Greek, "separate from Christ"; having no part in Him; far from Him. A different Greek word (aneu) would be required to express, "Christ was not present with you" [Tittmann].

aliens—Greek, "alienated from," not merely "separated from." The Israelites were cut off from the commonwealth of God, but it was as being self-righteous, indolent, and unworthy, not as aliens and strangers [Chrysostom]. The expression, "alienated from," takes it for granted that the Gentiles, before they had apostatized from the primitive truth, had been sharers in light and life (compare Eph 4:18, 23). The hope of redemption through the Messiah, on their subsequent apostasy, was embodied into a definite "commonwealth" or polity, namely, that "of Israel," from which the Gentiles were alienated. Contrast Eph 2:13; Eph 3:6; 4:4, 5, with Ps 147:20.

covenants of promise—rather, "… of the promise," namely, "to thee and thy seed will I give this land" (Ro 9:4; Ga 3:16). The plural implies the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the whole people at Sinai [Alford]. "The promise" is singular, to signify that the covenant, in reality, and substantially, is one and the same at all times, but only different in its accidents and external circumstances (compare Heb 1:1, "at sundry times and in divers manners").

having no … hope—beyond this life (1Co 15:19). The CONJECTURES of heathen philosophers as to a future life were at best vague and utterly unsatisfactory. They had no divine "promise," and therefore no sure ground of "hope." Epicurus and Aristotle did not believe in it at all. The Platonists believed the soul passed through perpetual changes, now happy, and then again miserable; the Stoics, that it existed no longer than till the time of the general burning up of all things.

without God—Greek, "atheists," that is, they had not "God" in the sense we use the word, the Eternal Being who made and governs all things (compare Ac 14:15, "Turn from these vanities unto the living God who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things therein"), whereas the Jews had distinct ideas of God and immortality. Compare also Ga 4:8, "Ye knew not God … ye did service unto them which are no gods" (1Th 4:5). So also pantheists are atheists, for an impersonal God is NO God, and an ideal immortality no immortality [Tholuck].

in the world—in contrast to belonging to "the commonwealth of Israel." Having their portion and their all in this godless vain world (Ps 17:14), from which Christ delivers His people (Joh 15:19; 17:14; Ga 1:4).

That at that time ye were without Christ; i.e. without knowledge of him, or interest in him. This is the foundation of all other miseries, as Christ is the foundation of all saving good, and therefore the apostle begins with this.

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; the church of God, confined formerly to the Israelites: their church and state was the same body, and God the founder of and lawgiver to them in both respects.

And strangers from the covenants of promise; those covenants in which the great promise of Christ and salvation by him was made. The covenants were several, as that with Abraham, and that by Moses, and differ in some accidents, but the promise in them was one and the same, which was the substance of each.

Having no hope; viz. beyond this life; as they could not but be who were without Christ, and without the promises.

And without God; not without some general knowledge of a God, but without any saving knowledge of him, as not knowing him in Christ: or they lived as without God, neglecting him, and being neglected by him, and suffered to walk in their own ways.

In the world; which is the congregation of the wicked, and is here opposed to the church. That at that time ye were without Christ,.... Or separate from him: they were chosen in him and were preserved in him, and were redeemed by him before; but they were without any knowledge of him, faith in him, love to him, communion with him, or subjection to him, his Gospel, government, laws, and ordinances; and particularly they were without any promises of him, or prophecies concerning him, which were peculiar to the Jews; hence the Messiah is called , "the Christ of Israel" (w), and who as he was promised, so he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house, of Israel: hence it follows,

being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; both from their civil and church state; the Gentiles might not dwell among them, nor have any dealings with them in things civil, unless they conformed to certain laws; nor might the Jews go into any, nor eat or converse with any, that were uncircumcised; so great an alienation and distance were there between these two people; and much less might they eat the passover and join with them in religious worship; the word for "commonwealth" here used, Harpocratian says (x), is commonly used by Greek writers for a "democracy" though the original constitution of the Israelites was properly a "theocracy":

strangers to the covenants of promise; to the covenant of circumcision given to Abraham; and to the covenant at Mount Sinai, made with Israel; and to the dispensation of the covenant of grace to that people, sometimes called the first covenant and the old covenant, and which peculiarly belonged to them, Romans 9:4 one copy reads, "strangers to the promises of the covenant"; which is natural enough; the Vulgate Latin version joins the word "promise" to the next clause, and reads,

having no hope of the promise of the promised Messiah: "having no hope"; of the Messiah and salvation by him, of the resurrection of the dead, of a future state, and of eternal life; none that is sure and steadfast, that is purifying, and makes not ashamed; or which is a good hope through grace, is the gift of God, the fruit of his love, and the effect of his power; and this is to be in a miserable condition: Philo, the Jew (y), observes, that

"the Chaldeans call a man Enos, as if he only was truly a man that expects good things, and supports himself with good hopes; and adds, hence it is manifest that one without hope is not reckoned a man, but a beast in an human form; since he is destitute of hope, which is the property of the human soul;''

and without God in the world; without the knowledge of God in Christ; without the image of God, which was defaced by sin; without the grace and fear of God; and without communion with him, and the worship of him; and while they were so they were in the world, among the men of it, and were a part of it, not being yet called out of it: the word signifies "atheists": so some of the Gentiles were in "theory", as they all were in practice; and they were by the Jews reckoned no other than "atheists"; it is a common saying with them (z) that

"he that dwells without the land (of Israel) is like one , "who has no God":''

(w) Targum in Isaiah 16.1. 5. (x) Lex. Decem Orator. p. 246. (y) De Abrahamo, p. 350, 351. (z) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 110. 2. Zohar in Exod. fol. 33. 1. Cosri, par. 2. sect. 22. fol. 85. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 129. 4. & 135. 2. & 153. 3. & 168. 3.

That at that time ye were {m} without Christ, being {n} aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

(m) He begins first with Christ, who was the end of all the promises.

(n) You had no right or title to the commonwealth of Israel.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ephesians 2:12. As regards the construction, see on Ephesians 2:11.

τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ] takes the place of the ποτέ, Ephesians 2:11, and means the pre-Christian, heathen period of the readers. On the dative of time without ἐν, see Winer, p. 195 f. [E. T. 273 f.].

χωρὶς Χριστοῦ] aloof from connection with Christ; for “χωρίς ad subjectum, quod ab objecto sejunctum est, refertur,” Tittmann, Synon. p. 94. It is dependent on ἦτε as its first sad predicate, and does not belong, as a more precise definition, to the subject (“when ye were as yet without Christ,” Bleek), in which case it would in fact be entirely self-evident and superfluous. In how far the readers as Gentiles were without Christ, we are told in the sequel. They stood afar off and aloof from the theocratic bond, in which Christ would have been to them, in accordance with the promise, the object of their faith and ground of their salvation. If Paul had wished to express merely the negation of the Christian relation (ye were without knowledge of Christ; comp. Anselm, Calovius, Flatt), how tame and idle would this in itself have been! and, moreover, not in keeping with the connection of that which follows, according to which, as is already clear from Ephesians 2:11, Paul wishes to bring out the disadvantage at which the readers, as Gentiles, had been placed in contradistinction to the Jews. Hence Grotius rightly indicates the relation as to contrast of Ephesians 2:12 to Ephesians 2:13 : “Nunc eum (Christum) non minus possidetis vos quam ii, quibus promissus fuerat.” Rückert refers χωρὶς Χ. to the activity of Christ under the O. T. previous to His incarnation, with an appeal to 1 Corinthians 10:4. Comp. Olshausen (“the immanence of Christ as regards His divinity in Israel”). But τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, in fact, applies to the pre-Christian lifetime of the readers, and thus comprises a time which was subsequent to the incarnation. Χριστοῦ means the historical Christ, so far as He was the very promised Messiah. The relation χωρὶς Χριστοῦ is described from the standpoint of the apostle, for whom the bond with the Messiah was the bond with Christ.

The charge that the author here makes an un-Pauline concession to Judaism (Schwegler, i.e. p. 388 f.) is incorrect, since the concession concerns only the pre-Christian relation. Comp. Romans 9:4-5. A superiority of Judaism, in respect of the pre-Christian relation to Christianity, Paul could not but necessarily teach (comp. Acts 3:25 f.; Romans 1:16; Romans 3:1 f.; Galatians 3:13 f.); but that Christianity as to its essential contents was Judaism itself, merely extended through the death of Christ to the Gentiles also, he has not taught either here or elsewhere; in fact, the doing away of the law taught by him in this very passage is the very opposite thereof (in opposition to Baur, Paulus, p. 545; Christenth. der drei ersten Jahrh. p. 107).

ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι κ.τ.λ.] Comp. on ἀπαλλοτριόω, Dem. 255, 3; Polyb. i. 79. 6, i. 82. 9; often in the LXX. (Schleusner, Thesaur. I. p. 325) and Josephus, Krebs, Obss. p. 326. The notion of alien does not here (comp. also Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 1:21) presuppose the existence of an earlier fellowship, but it was their status ethnicus itself,[146] by which the readers were at one time placed apart from connection with the πολιτεία τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, i.e. whereby this ἀλλοτριότης took place. The opposite: ἼΔΙΟΙ, ΟἸΚΕῖΟΙ, ΣΥΜΠΟΛῖΤΑΙ (Ephesians 2:19). ΠΟΛΙΤΕΊΑ signifies as well political constitution (Thuc. ii. 36; Plato, Polit. vii p. 520 B; Legg. iv. p. 712 E; Arist. Polit. iii. 4. 1; Isoc. Evag. viii. 10; Xen. Ages. i. 37; 2Ma 4:11; 2Ma 8:17) as right of citizenship (Herod, ix. 34; Dem. 161, 11; Thuc. vi. 104. 3; Diod. Sic. xii. 51; 3Ma 3:21; Acts 22:28; Joseph. Antt. xii. 3. 1). The latter signification is assumed by Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Bullinger, Michaelis, and others. But the idea of right of citizenship was for the apostle, himself a Roman citizen, as well as for the readers, a secular privilege, and one therefore foreign to the connection of our passage, where everything points to the theocracy, and this was the political constitution of the Israelites.

τοῦ Ἰσραήλ] The divine name of Jacob (Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10) is, according to the traditionally hallowed usage of the O. T., the theocratic name of his posterity, the Jewish people, Romans 9:6; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Galatians 6:16, al. The genitive, however, is not to be explained like ἄστυ Ἀθηνῶν (Harless); for Ὁ ἸΣΡΑΉΛ is the people, which has the polity.

καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγ.] and foreign to the covenants of the promise (not belonging thereto); these words are to be taken together (in opposition to Ambrosiaster, Cornelius a Lapide, Morus, Rosenmüller, and others, who attach τῆς ἐπαγγ. to what follows); for only thus do the two elements belonging to each other and connected by ΚΑΊ, which serve for the elucidation of ΧΩΡῚς ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ, stand in harmonious symmetry; only in this way, likewise, is similar justice done to the two last particulars connected by ΚΑΊ,

ἘΛΠΊΔΑ ΜῊ ἜΧΟΝΤΕς ΚΑῚ ἌΘΕΟΙ ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ
—which in their very generality and brevity carry the description of the Gentile misery to the uttermost point; only in this way, lastly, does ΞΈΝΟΙ ΤῶΝ ΔΙΑΘΗΚῶΝ acquire the characteristic colouring which it needs, in order not to appear tame after ἈΠΗΛΛΟΤΡ. Τ. ΠΟΛ. Τ. ἸΣΡ., for precisely in the characteristic Τῆς ἘΠΑΓΓ. lies the sad significance of the being apart from the πολιτεία τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. The covenants of the promise, i.e. the covenants with which the promise κατʼ ἐξοχήν, namely, that of the Messianic salvation (Romans 9:4; Galatians 3), was connected, are the covenants made with Abraham (Genesis 12:2 f., Genesis 12:7, Genesis 13:15, Genesis 15:18, Genesis 17:20, Genesis 22:17 ff.) and repeated with the other patriarchs (Genesis 26:2 ff; Genesis 28:13 ff.), as also the covenant formed with the people through Moses. The latter is here (it is otherwise at Romans 9:4, where there specially follows ἡ νομοθεσία) neither excluded (Rückert, Harless, Olshausen, and others), seeing that this covenant also had the promise of Messianic life (Ὁ ΠΟΙΉΣΑς ΑὐΤᾺ ΖΉΣΕΤΑΙ ἘΝ ΑὐΤΟῖς, Galatians 3:12), nor exclusively meant (Elsner and Wolf, as was already suggested by Beza). Either is arbitrary, and against the latter there may be urged specially the plural, as well as the eminent importance which Paul must have attributed to the patriarchal covenants in particular. On ΞΈΝΟς with a genitive (Kühner, II. p. 163), comp. Xen. Cyr. vi. 2. 1; Soph. Oed. R. 219; Plato, Apol. p. 17 D, al.

ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχ. κ. ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κ.] consequence of the preceding ἈΠΗΛΛΟΤΡ.… ἘΠΑΓΓ., and in what a tragic climax! The very generality of the expressions, inasmuch as it is not merely a definite hope (Paul did not write τὴν ἐλπίδα) and a definite relation to God that are denied, renders these last traits of the picture so dark!

ἘΛΠΊΔΑ] Bengel: “Si promissionem habuissent, spem habuissent illi respondentem.” But in this way Paul must have written ΤῊΝ ἘΛΠΊΔΑ. No, those shut out from the promise are for the apostle men without hope at all; they have nothing to hope for, just because they have not to hope for the promised salvation. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Every explanation of a definite hope (of the resurrection and life everlasting, Bullinger, Grotius, and many; of the promised blessings, Estius; of deliverance, Harless; comp. Erasmus and others) conflicts with the absence of the article, and weakens the force of the picture.

μὴ ἔχοντες] μή is not to be explained from the dependence of the thought on what immediately precedes (“foreign to the covenants of the promise, without having hope,” as Harless would take it), by which the independence of the element ἐλπ. μὴ ἔχ. would be sacrificed to the injury of the symmetry and force of the passage; but the subjectivity of the negation results from ΜΝΗΜΟΝΕΎΕΤΕ, ὍΤΙἮΤΕ, in accordance with which ΜῊ ἜΧΟΝΤΕς is a fact now conceived in the recollection of the readers (comp. Kühner, II. § 715, 3). The μή refers the ἘΛΠ. ΜῊ ἜΧ. to the conception of the subject of the governing verbum sentiendi (μνημονεύετε).

ἄθεοι] the lowest stage of Gentile misery. We may explain the word (see, generally, Diog. Laert. vii. 119; Sturz in the Comm. soc. phil. Lips. II. p. 65 ff.; Meier in the Hall. Encykl. I. 24, p. 466 ff.), which occurs only here in the N.T., and not at all in the LXX. or Apocrypha, either: not believing in God, atheists (Plato, Apol. p. 26 C; Lucian, Alex. 25; Aelian, V. H. ii. 31; comp. Ignat. ad Trall. 10: ἄθεοι ὄντες, τουτέστιν ἄπιστοι), or godless, impii, reprobate (Plato, Legg. xii. p. 966 E; Xen. Anab. ii. 5. 39; Pindar, Pyth. iv. 288), or: without God, sine Deo (Vulgate), i.e. without divine help, without the protection and assistance of God (Soph. Oed. R. 633: ἄθεος, ἌΦΙΛΟς, comp. 254). The last-mentioned sense, as yielding the saddest closing predicate (comp. ἀθεεί, Hom. Od. xviii. 352; Mosch. ii. 148), is here to be preferred. The Gentiles had gods, which, however, were no gods (Acts 19:26; Acts 14:15; Galatians 4:8); but, on the contrary, what they worshipped and honoured as divinities, since the forsaking of the natural knowledge of God (Romans 1:19 ff.), were demons (1 Corinthians 10:20); so that for them with all their δεισιδαιμονία (Ephesians 2:12. ὅτι ἧτε ἐν τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ χωρὶς Χριστοῦ: that ye were at that time apart from Christ. The sentence interrupted by the description of those addressed as τὰ ἔθνη κ.τ.λ. is now resumed—Remember, I say, that ye were. The τῷ καιρῷ, corresponding to the previous ποτέ, refers to their pre-Christian days. In such phrases it is usual to insert ἐν (Donald., Greek Gram., p. 487), and it is inserted by the TR (following [149] [150] [151] [152], etc.). But time when is also often enough expressed by the simple dat. (Win.-Moult., pp. 273, 274), and the balance of evidence is largely against the presence of the prep. here. The χωρὶς Χριστοῦ is the predicate to ἦτε, and is not a defining clause = “being at that time without Christ” (De Wette, Bleek). It describes their former condition as one in which they had no connection with Christ; in which respect they were in a position sadly inferior to that of the Jews whose attitude was one of hoping and waiting for Christ, the Messiah. Their apartness from Christ, their lack of all relation to Him—this is the first stroke in the dark picture of their former heathen life, and the four to which the eye is directed in the subsequent clauses all follow from that.—ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραήλ: alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. The alienation is expressed by ἀπαλλοτριοῦσθαι, a strong verb, common enough in classical Greek (at least from Plato’s time), corresponding to the OT זוּר (cf. Psalm 58:4), and used again in Ephesians 4:18; Colossians 1:21. It does not necessarily imply a lapse from a former condition of attachment or fellowship, but expresses generally the idea of being a stranger as contrasted with one who is at home with a person or an object. The term πολιτεία has two main senses—a state or commonwealth (e.g., 2Ma 4:11; 2Ma 8:17), and citizenship or the rights of a citizen (Acts 22:28). The first of these is most in harmony with the theocratic term τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, and so it is understood by most. These Ephesians, therefore, had no part in the theocracy, the OT constitution under which God made Himself known to the Jew and entered into relation with him.—καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας: and strangers from the covenants of the Promise. The τῶν διαθηκῶν is probably the gen. of separation or removal. That idea is usually expressed by a prep., but with verbs like ὑποχωρεῖν, διαφέρειν, ἀποστερεῖσθαι, and with some adjectives, it is also expressed by the simple gen. (Win.-Moult., pp. 243, 244). The word ξένος, which has the particular meaning of one who is not a member of a state or city, is used here in the general sense of foreign to a thing, having no share in it. The διαθῆκαι are the covenants with Abraham and the patriarchs (cf. Wis 18:22; 2Ma 8:15). It is obviously the covenants of Messianic significance that are in view. That the Mosaic Law or the Sinaitic Covenant is not in view seems to follow from the mention of the ἐπαγγελία; for that Covenant was not distinctively of the Promise, but is described by Paul as coming in after it and provisionally (Galatians 3:17-19). The ἐπαγγελία is the Promise, the one distinctively so called, the great Messianic Promise given to the fathers of the Hebrew people (Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8, etc.). The defining τῆς ἐπαγγελίας is attached by some (Rosenmüller, etc.) to the following ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες. But the covenants and the promise are kindred ideas, and make one thought here.—ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες: having no hope. With participles the subjective negative is much more frequently used than οὐ. In cases like the present, where the participle does not belong to the class of those expressing command, purpose, condition or the like, the use of μή is due to the aspect in which the matter in question presents itself to the writer—to the fact, e.g., that he has a genus, not the individual, in view; cf. Ell. on 1 Thessalonians 2:15, and Win.-Moult., p. 606. The statement here is absolute—ἐλπίδα, not τὴν ἐλπίδα. It is not only that they had not the hope, the Messianic hope which was one of the distinctions of the Israelite, but that they were utterly without hope. Ignorant of the Divine salvation and of Christ in whom it was found, they had nothing to hope for beyond this world.—καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ: and without God in the world. The last element in the darkness and misery of their former life. The adj. ἄθεος, which is never found in the LXX or in the Apocrypha, and only this once in the NT, in classical Greek means impious in the sense of denying or neglecting the gods of the State; but it is also used occasionally in the sense of knowing or worshipping no God (Æl., V. h., 2, 31), or in that of abandoned by God (Soph., Œd. R., 633). Three renderings are possible here—ignorant of God, denying God, forsaken of God. The third is preferred by many (Mey., Ell., etc.), who think that the darkest colour is given to the picture of their old heathen condition by this mention of the fact that they were without the help and protection of God. The first of the three senses, however, seems even more in harmony with the preceding negations. As they were without Christ, and without hope, so were they without God—without the knowledge of the one true and living and thus destitute of any God. So in Galatians 4:8 Paul speaks of Gentiles like these as knowing not God and doing service unto them which by nature are no gods. The clause ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ is connected by some with the whole preceding description (Koppe, etc.); by others with the two last sentences in the description—the ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες and the ἄθεοι (Abb.). But it rather makes one idea with the immediately preceding term ἄθεοι. It is difficult to say in what particular sense the κόσμος is used here—whether in the simple, non-ethical sense, or in the deeper sense which it has in John and also at times in some degree in Paul (1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 11:32; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Whichever is preferred—whether “without God in the world of men,” or “without God in this evil world”—an appropriate idea results. But the implied contrast with the previous πολιτεία τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ leads most to decide for the latter. The domain of their life was this present evil world, and in it, alienated as it was from God, they had no God.

[149] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[150] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[151] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[152] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.12. at that time] Strictly, at that occasion. The Gr. word habitually marks limited periods; though this must not always be pressed. Here possibly there is a suggestion of the transient period of exclusion, opposed to the long eternity of acceptance.

without Christ] Apart from Christ; out of connexion with the Messiah. Here no Pharisaic prejudice is in view, but the mysterious fact that only through the great prophesied Redeemer is there life and acceptance for man, and that in order to contact with Him there needs “preaching,” “hearing,” “believing” (Romans 10:13; Romans 10:15). Scripture does not present this fact without any relief; but all relief leaves it a phenomenon of Revelation as mysterious as it is solid.

being aliens] Lit., having been alienated (the same word as Ephesians 4:18; Colossians 1:21); as if they had once been otherwise. So, in idea, they had been. Every human soul is (occasionally) viewed in Scripture as having been originally unfallen, and, if unfallen, then in a covenant of peace with God of which the covenant of Israel was but a type. Such a view is wholly ideal, referring not to the actual history of the individual soul, but to the Nature of which the individual is a specimen. Such popular phrases as, “we are fallen creatures,” have this truth below them. Historically, we begin prostrate; ideally, we began upright, and have fallen.

the commonwealth of Israel] Perhaps, “the citizenship.” The Gr. word occurs elsewhere, in N. T., Acts 22:28 only (A. V., “this freedom;” the Roman citizenship). But the A. V. here (and so R. V.) is favoured by the word “alienated.” It is rather more natural to say “made aliens from a state,” than “made aliens from state-rights.” The two interpretations, however, perfectly coincide practically. “Israel,” (the Covenant-People with its special name of sacred dignity; see Trench, N. T. Synonyms, § 39;) is viewed as an ordered commonwealth or empire under its Divine King; and to be free of its rights is the one way to have connexion with Him.—By “Israel” the Apostle here doubtless means the inner Israel, of which the outer was as it were the husk; see Romans 9:6. But he does not emphasize a distinction. Under the Old Covenant, it was generally necessary to belong, in some sense, to the outer Israel in order to be one of the inner.

strangers] The Gr. is a word familiar in civic connexions; non-members of a state or city.

the covenants of promise] Lit., and better, of the Promise, the great Promise of Messiah, according to which those who “are of the Messiah, are Abraham’s seed, and heirs by promise” (Galatians 3:29). In the light of Galatians 3:18, we may say that the Promise is more specially of Justification, Acceptance, (as in Abraham’s case,) through faith, securing vital connexion with the Messiah.

Covenants:”—for the plural cp. Romans 9:4. The reference is to the many Compacts, as with Abraham, Moses, Levi, David, Joshua; and perhaps to the New Covenant itself, as of course “connected with” the Promise.—The Promise indicated, from the first, blessings for the world, “all the families of the earth”; but these blessings were to be found only “in Abraham and his seed” (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18); and thus to those not yet connected with Abraham and the Messiah there was no actual portion yet in the “covenants.”

having no hope] The Gr. just indicates (by its special negative particle) that this was not only so, but felt by the Gentiles to be so; “having, as you knew, no hope.” (So, precisely, 1 Thessalonians 4:13.) The deep truth of this is fully attested by classical and other heathen literature, old or modern. Aspiration and conjecture there often was, but no hope, in the Scripture sense; no expectation on a firm basis. A profound uncertainty about the unseen and eternal underlies many of the strongest expressions of the classical poets and philosophers. And in the special reference of “hope” here, hope of a Redeemer and a redeemed inheritance, there was (and is) a total blank, apart from revelation.—“In Hellas, at the epoch of Alexander the Great, it was a current saying, and one profoundly felt by all the best men, that the best thing of all was not to be born, and the next best to die.” (Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, Eng. transl. Vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 586). See the thought still earlier, Sophocles, Œd. Col. 1224 (Dindorf).

without God] Lit., Godless; without true knowledge of the true God. “Gods many” were indeed, in some sense, popularly believed in; and large schools of thought recognized a One Supreme, though often with the very faintest views of personality. But this recognition, at its best and highest, lacked some essentials in the Idea of the True God, above all, the union in Him of supreme Love and awful Purity. And for the average mind of ancient heathenism He “was not, in all the thoughts,” as truly as the impersonal Brahm “is not” in the average Hindoo mind. See further, Appendix D.

in the world] Words which complete the dark picture. “In the world” of fallen humanity, with its dreadful realities of evil, they did not “know the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent” (John 17:3), and so lacked the one possible preservative and spiritual life-power.

D. “WITHOUT GOD.” (Ch. Ephesians 2:12.)

“The vulgar believed in many Gods, the philosopher believed in a Universal Cause; but neither believed in God. The philosopher only regarded the Universal Cause as the spring of the Universal machine, which was necessary to the working of all the parts, but was not thereby raised to a separate order of being from them. Theism was discussed as a philosophical not as a religious question, … as no more affecting practice than any great scientific hypothesis does now … Nothing would have astonished [the philosopher] more than, when he had proved in his lecture hall the existence of a God, to have been told to worship Him. ‘Worship whom?’ he would have exclaimed, ‘worship what? worship how?’ ”

Mozley, Lectures on Miracles, Lect. iv.Ephesians 2:12. Ὅτι, that) On this word, you were [Ephesians 2:12], and you are made [Ephesians 2:13], depend; but the particle is repeated from Ephesians 2:11.—χωρὶς, without) The antithesis is in Christ, Ephesians 2:13. Their misery is detailed under these three heads: without, and strangers—and without God [ἄθεοι, atheists]: you were without Christ, without the Holy Spirit, without God; comp. Ephesians 2:18 and the following verses; ch. Ephesians 3:6, Ephesians 4:4-5, notes.—χωρὶς Χριστοῦ, without Christ) He proves this in the following clause, being alienated from (ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι); nor does he say, aliens (ἀλλότριοι):[27] comp. note at Ephesians 4:18.—τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ, from the polity of Israel) The whole commonwealth of Israel had respect to Christ.—καὶ ξένοι, and strangers) destitute of share in.—τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, the covenants of promise) God, the gift of Christ being presupposed, had above all promised the Holy Spirit; Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 3:14, note; Luke 24:49; Acts 2; and the covenants had been subservient to that promise, Romans 9:4. This clause is proved by the following, having no hope; for if they had had a promise, they would have had the hope corresponding to it; but they had no hope; and therefore they had not even a promise.—ἄθεοι, atheists) They had not come to the fixed opinion, that there were no gods; for they had even Diana and Jupiter, Acts 19:35 : but, so far were they from having the true God, 1 Thessalonians 4:5, they were even ignorant of Him, who He was. He says first, you were out of [without] Christ; afterwards he infers, you were without God.—ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, in the world) Paul proves the latter also, that they were without God; and he does so on the ground, that they wandered in the world, which is wide (2 Corinthians 1:12), and vain (Luke 12:30; John 1:10, at the end), serving the creatures, enjoying the things, that perish, removed far off [from God].

[27] Engl. Vers. loses this point by its rendering, aliens from.—ED.Verse 12. - That at that time ye were without Christ. Very comprehensive description, having no knowledge of Christ, no interest in him, no life or blessing from him. Being aliens (or, alienated) from the commonwealth of Israel; the πολιτεία, or citizenship condition, including a country, a constitution, a divinely appointed and divinely administered economy, rich in blessing. And strangers to the covenants of the promise. The promise of Christ, of which circumcision was the seal. The "covenants" (plural) substantially the same, but renewed to various persons and at various times in which God promised, "I will bless him that blesseth thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." In respect of these they were strangers, not embraced in their provisions, not, therefore, in a state of encouragement to expect a great blessing. Having no hope; no ground for looking forward to better times, no reasonable expectation of improvement in your religious condition. And without God in the world; ἄθεοι, atheists; but not in the active sense of denying God, rather in the passive sense of unconnected with God; without any friendly and beneficial relation to him, without any vital nexus that would bring into their soul the fullness of God. The words "in the world" intensify "without God." It were bad enough to be without God (without his holy fellowship and blessed influence) anywhere, but it is worse to be without him in the world, in "this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4), in a world dominated by so subtle and evil a god (ver. 2 and 2 Corinthians 4:4). The fivefold negative description of this verse has a cumulative effect; the situation becomes graver and more terrible, and the last clause is the climax. Being aliens (ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι)

Rev., better, giving the force of the verb, alienated. As they had once been otherwise. Paul speaks ideally of a spiritual commonwealth in which Jew and Gentile were together at peace with God, and of which the commonwealth of Israel is a type.

Israel

Selecting the most honorable title to describe the Jew. See on Acts 3:12. The reference is to the spiritual rather than to the national distinction. In being separated from Christ, they were separated from that commonwealth in which, according to the promise, Christ would have been to them, as to the faithful Israelites, the object of their faith and the ground of their salvation.

Covenants

The several renewals of God's covenant with the patriarchs.

Of promise (τῆς ἐπαγγελίας)

Better, the promise. The messianic promise, which was the basis of all the covenants.

Without God (ἄθεοι)

God-forsaken. It might also mean godless or impious. The gentile gods were no gods.

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