Ephesians 3:15
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
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(15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.—The original word (patria) here rendered “family” is literally derived from the word “father” (pater). It has been proposed to render it fatherhood, and translate, from whom all fatherhood whatever derives its name—all lower fatherhood being, in fact, a shadow and derivative from the Fatherhood of God. The translation is tempting, yielding a grand sense, and one thoroughly accordant with the treatment of the earthly relationship below (Ephesians 6:1-4). But the usage of the word is clearly against it; and we must render it every family—that is, every body of rational beings in earth or heaven united under one common fatherhood, and bearing the name (as in a family or clan) of the common ancestor. Such bodies are certainly the first germs or units of human society; what their heavenly counterparts may be, who can tell? The Apostle looks upon the fathers whose names they delight to bear as the imperfect representatives of God, and upon the family itself, with its head, as the type in miniature of the whole society of spiritual beings united in sonship to the Father in heaven. Hence he declares that it is ultimately from Him that every family derives the name of patria, and by that very name bears witness to the Divine Fatherhood, on which he desires here to lay especial stress.



Ephesians 3:15Grammatically, we are driven to recognise that the Revised Version is more correct than the Authorised, when it reads ‘every family,’ instead of ‘the whole family.’ There is in the expression no reference to the thought, however true it is in itself, that the redeemed in heaven and the believers on earth make up but one family. The thought rather is, that, as has been said, ‘the father makes the family,’ and if any community of intelligent beings, human, or angelic, bears the great name of family, the great reason for that lies ‘in God’s paternal relationship.’

But my present purpose in selecting this text is not so much to speak of it as to lay hold of the probably incorrect rendering in the Authorised Version, as suggesting, though here inaccurately, the thought that believers struggling here and saints and angels glorious above ‘but one communion make,’ and in the light of that thought, to consider the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. I am, of course, fully conscious that in thus using the words, I am diverting them from their original purpose; but possibly in this case, open confession, my open confession, may merit your forgiveness and at all events, it, in some degree, brings me my own.

I. Consider the Lord’s Supper as a sign that the Church on earth is a family.

The Passover was essentially a family feast, and the Lord’s Supper, which was grafted on it, was plainly meant to be the same. The domestic character of the rite shines clearly out in the precious simplicity of the arrangements in the upper room. When Christ and the twelve sat down there, it was a family meal at which they sat. He was the head of the household; they were members of His family. The early examples of the rite, when the disciples ‘gathered together to break bread,’ obviously preserved the same familiar character, and stand in extraordinary contrast to the splendours of high mass in a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The Church, as a whole, is a household, and the very form of the rite proclaims that ‘we, being many, are one bread.’ The conception of a family brings clearly into view the deepest ground of Christian unity. It is the possession of a common life, just as men are born into an earthly family, not of their own will, nor of their own working, and come without any action of their own into bonds of blood relationship with brothers and sisters. When we become sons of God and are born again, we become brethren of all His children. That which gives us life in Him makes us kindred with all through whose veins flows that same life. It is the common partaking in the one bread which makes us one. The same blood flows in the veins of all the children.

Hence, the only ground on which the Church rests is this common possession of the life of Christ, and that ground makes, and ought to be felt to make, Christian union a far deeper, more blessed, and more imperative bond than can be found in any shallow similarities of aim-or identities of opinion or feeling. The deepest fact of Christian consciousness is the foundation fact of Christian brotherhood; each is nearer to every Christian than to any besides. A very solemn view of Christian duty arises from these thoughts, familiar as they are:

‘No distance breaks the tie of blood,

Brothers are brothers ever more.’

and every tongue is loud in condemnation of any man who is ashamed or afraid to recognise his brother and stand by him, whatever may be the difference in their worldly positions. ‘Every one who loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him.’

II. The Lord’s Supper as a prophecy of the family at home above.

The prophetic character was stamped on the first institution of the Lord’s Supper by Christ’s own words ‘until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God,’ and by His declaration that He appointed unto them a kingdom, that they might eat and drink at His table in His kingdom. We may also recall the mysterious feast spread on the shore of the lake, where, with obvious allusion both to his earlier miracles and to the sad hour in the upper room, he came ‘and taketh the bread and gave it to them.’ Blending these two together we get most blessed, though dim, thoughts of that future; they speak to us of an eternal home, an eternal feast, and an eternal society. We have to reverse not a few of the characteristics of the upper room in order to reach those of the table in the kingdom. The Lord’s Supper was followed for Him by Gethsemane and Calvary, and for them by going out to betray and to deny and to forsake Him. From that better table there is no more going out. The servant comes in from the field, spent with toil and stained with many a splash, but the Master Himself comes forth and serves His servant.

In the eternal feast, which is spread above, the bread as well as the wine is new, even whilst it is old, for there will be disclosed new depths of blessing and power in the old Christ, and new draughts of joy and strength in the old wine which will make the feasters say, in rapture and astonishment, to the Master of the feast, ‘Thou hast kept the good wine until now.’ There and then all broken ties will be re-knit, all losses supplied, and no shadow of change, nor fear of exhaustion, pass across the calm hearts.

III. The Lord’s Supper is a token of the present union of the two.

If it thus prophesies the perfectness of heaven, it also shows us how the two communities of earth and heaven are united. They, as we, live by derivation of the one life; they, as we, are fed and blessed by the one Lord. The occupations and thoughts of Christian life on earth and of the perfect life of Saints above are one. They look to Christ as we do, when we live as Christians, though the sun which is the light of both regions shows there a broader disc, and pours forth more fervid rays, and is never obscured by clouds, nor ever sets in night. Whether conscious of us or not, they are doing there, in perfect fashion, what we imperfectly attempt, and partially accomplish.

‘The Saints on earth and all the Dead

But one communion make.’

Heaven and earth are equally mansions in the Father’s house.

To the faith which realises this great truth, death dwindles to a small matter. The Lord’s table has an upper and a lower level. Sitting at the lower, we may feel that those who have gone from our sides, and have left empty places which never can be filled, are gathered round Him in the upper half, and though a screen hangs between the two, yet the feast is one and the family is one. Singly our dear ones go, and singly we all shall go. The table spread in the presence of enemies will be left vacant to its last place, and the one spread above will be filled to its last place, and so shall we ever be with the Lord, and the unity which was always real be perfectly and permanently manifested at the last.3:13-19 The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?Of whom the whole family - This expression "of whom," may refer either to "the Father," or to the Lord Jesus. Commentators have been divided in opinion in regard to it. Bloomfield, Chandler, Erasmus, Koppe, and some others, refer it to the Father. Locke, Doddridge, Calvin, and some others, refer it to the Lord Jesus. This is the more natural interpretation. The whole "family of God," means all his children; and the idea is, that they all bear the same name, derived from the Redeemer; all are Christians. No matter where they are, in heaven or in earth; no matter from what nation they are converted, whether Jews or Gentiles, they all have one name, and one Redeemer, and all belong to one family; see Ephesians 4:4-6.

In heaven - Spirits of just people made perfect. It does not properly refer to angels, for he is not speaking of them but of the family of the redeemed. If the phrase "in heaven," could "ever" be taken to denote the Jews as contradistinguished from the Gentiles, I should think that this was one of the places. Many expositors have supposed that it is frequently so used in this Epistle, but I see no clear evidence of it, and no instance where it seems very probable, unless this should be one. And it is not necessary here, for it may mean "all" the redeemed, whether in heaven or earth, though the connection would seem rather to have suggested a reference to the Jews and the Gentiles. An expression similar to this occurs in Colossians 1:20. "To reconcile all things to himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." The passage before us is one that is commonly explained by a reference to Jewish opinions. The Jews were accustomed to call the angels in heaven God's "upper family," and his people on earth his "lower family." See the passages cited from the rabbinical writers in Wetstein.

Is named - This means substantially the same as is. They are all of one family. They all have one father, and are all of one community. The expression is taken from the custom in a family, where all bear the name of the "head" of the family; and the meaning is, that all in heaven and on earth are united under one head, and constitute one community. It does not mean that all are "called" by the same name, or that the name "Christian" is given to the angels, but that they all pertain to the same community, and constitute the same great and glorious brotherhood. Part are in heaven, near his throne; part in distant worlds; part are angels of light; part redeemed and happy spirits; part are in the church on earth; but they are all united as one family, and have one head and Father. This glorious family will yet be gathered together in heaven, and will encompass the throne of their common Father rejoicing.

15. the whole family—Alford, Middleton, and others translate, "every family": alluding to the several families in heaven and in earth supposed to exist [Theophylact, Æcumenius, in Suicer, 2.633], the apostle thus being supposed to imply that God, in His relation of Father to us His adopted children, is the great prototype of the paternal relation wherever found. But the idea that "the holy angels are bound up in spiritual families or compaternities," is nowhere else in Scripture referred to. And Ac 2:36, where the article is similarly omitted, and yet the translation is, "All the house of Israel," shows that in New Testament Greek the translation is justifiable, "all the family," or "the whole family": which accords with Scripture views, that angels and men, the saints militant and those with God, are one holy family joined under the one Father in Christ, the mediator between heaven and earth (Eph 1:10; Php 2:10). Hence angels are termed our "brethren" (Re 19:10), and "sons of God" by creation, as we are by adoption (Job 38:7). The Church is part of the grand family, or kingdom, which comprehends, besides men, the higher spiritual world, where the archetype, to the realization of which redeemed man is now tending, is already realized. This universal idea of the "kingdom" of God as one divine community, is presented to us in the Lord's Prayer. By sin men were estranged, not only from God, but from that higher spiritual world in which the kingdom of God is already realized. As Christ when He reconciled men to God, united them to one another in a divine community (joined to Himself, the one Head), breaking down the partition wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14), so also He joins them in communion with all those who have already attained that perfection in the kingdom of God, to which the Church on earth is aspiring (Col 1:20) [Neander].

is named—derives its origin and its name as sons of God. To be named, and to be, are one with God. To bear God's name is to belong to God as His own peculiar people (Nu 6:27; Isa 43:7; 44:5; Ro 9:25, 26).

Of whom; either of God, or rather of Christ, last mentioned.

The whole family, or kindred, the church of God being his household, Ephesians 2:19.

In heaven and earth; all the saints, both which are already in glory, and which yet live upon the earth, wherever or whoever they be, Jews or Gentiles.

Is named: to be named, or called, implies the thing as well as the name, Isaiah 7:14 Luke 1:35. The whole family is named of Christ; i.e. of him they are, as well as are called, Christians, and the church of God. The Jews boasted of Abraham as their father; but now all believers, even Gentiles, are one family of God’s people, and upon them the name of Christ is called. Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. This may refer either to God, the Father of Christ; who is the Father of the whole family in heaven and in earth; not only the Father of Christ, but the Father of spirits, of angelic spirits, as well as of the souls of men; and the Father of all the saints by adopting grace, whether above or below; they are all the household of God: or else to Jesus Christ, who is the everlasting Father, the Son over his own house, and the firstborn among many brethren: and this family consists either of elect angels and elect men, who are both under one head, Christ, and are in one family, only with this difference, the one are servants, the other sons; or else only of elect men, of saints in heaven and in earth, who all make up but one family; and that part of it, which is on earth, consists of persons of various sizes and growth, as fathers, young men, and children, though they are all the children of God, and partake of the same privileges: and this family is named of Christ; they are called Christians from him, and he is the master and governor of them; they have their laws, directions, and instructions from him; and he is the great provider for them, and the support of them; they have their food and clothing from him, as well as are called by his name. Frequent mention is made in the Jewish writings (o) of the family of the holy angels, and of the family above, and the family below, to which here may be some reference.

(o) Targ. in Cant. i. 15. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1. Zohar in Exod. fol. 105. 4. Raziel, fol. 42. 1. & 45. 2. Caphtor, fol. 58. 2. Shaare Orn, fol. 14. 3.

Of whom the whole {e} family in heaven and earth is named,

(e) That entire people, who had but one household Father, and that is the Church which is adopted in Christ.

Ephesians 3:15. ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα πατριὰ ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς ὀνομάζεται: from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. The ἐξ οὗ denotes the origin of the name, the source whence it is derived (cf. Hom., Il., x., 68; Xen., Mem., iv., 5, 8; Soph., (Œd. R., 1036). The verb ὀνομάζομαι is also followed by ἀπό (Herod., vi., 129); but ἐκ conveys the idea of more direct origination (cf. Ell., in loc.). The noun πατριά, for which πάτρα is the more usual form in classical Greek, never has the sense of πατρότης, paternitas (Syr., Goth., Vulg., Luth., and, so far, also Harl.). It means sometimes ancestry (Herod., ii., 143; iii., 75), but usually family (Exodus 6:15; Exodus 12:3; Numbers 1:2; Luke 2:4), race or tribe, i.e., a number of families descended from a common stock (Herod., i., 200; Numbers 1:16), nation or people (1 Chronicles 16:28; Psalm 22:28; Acts 3:25). In the LXX the πατριαί are the מִשְׁפָּחוֹת as distinguished from the φυλαί, מִטּוֹת. The Israelites were constituted of twelve φυλαί divided into a number of πατριαί, each of these latter again consisting of so many οἶκοι. Here the word seems to have the widest sense of class, order, nation, community, as the idea of family in the proper sense of the term is inapplicable to the case of the angels, who are indicated by ἐν οὐρανοῖς. Further, the anarthrous πᾶσα πατριά grammatically can only mean “every family” (see under Ephesians 2:21 above), not “the whole family” (Mich., Olsh., etc.). All such ideas, therefore, as that angels and men, or the blessed in heaven and the believing on earth, are in view as now making one great family, are excluded. Nor can ὀνομάζεται be made to mean anything else than “are named”—certainly not exist, or called into existence (Estius, etc.), or “are named the children of God” (Beng., etc.). The sense, therefore, is “the Father, from whom all the related orders of intelligent beings, human and angelic, each by itself, get the significant name of family, community”. The various classes of men on earth, Jewish, Gentile, and others, and the various orders of angels in heaven, are all related to God, the common Father, and only in virtue of that relation has any of them the name of family. The father makes the family; God is the Father of all; and if any community of intelligent beings, human or angelic, bears the great name of family, the reason for that lies in this relation of God to it. The significant name has its origin in the spiritual relationship. It is not possible, however, to give proper expression to the thought in English. In the Greek there is a play upon the words πατήρ, πατριά, which cannot be reproduced. Some have supposed that Paul has certain Rabbinical notions in view here, or that he is glancing at certain Gnostic theories, or at the vain worship of angels. But there is no ground for such far-fetched suppositions. The Rabbinical conceits regarding angels and the Gnostic speculations were both very different from anything suggested here.15. of whom … is named] Lit., “out of Whom, &c.” The derivation of the “name” is from His Fatherhood.

the whole family] Gr., patria. It is difficult to preserve in English the point of the Gr. here. “Father” and “family” have no verbal kinship, while patêr and patria have. “The whole fatherhood,” or “every fatherhood,” would scarcely convey a clear idea.

An interesting question of interpretation arises here. The Revisers render “every family,” or (margin) “every fatherhood; and in this they have the concurrence of many commentators, modern and ancient. Indeed, there could be no doubt of their rendering were the usages of Greek in the N. T. and in the classics the same; the absence here of the article before patria would be decisive in Xenophon, for example. But the law of the Gr. article is in some respects less precise in the N. T., as was observed on Ephesians 2:21 (where see note); and we are at liberty here, as there, though of course with caution, to take the context into account, before surrendering the A. V.

The alternatives then are, (1) to understand the Apostle to diverge to the thought that God’s spiritual Fatherhood is the Archetype of all family unions, in earth and heaven; the source from which every other “father” draws his “name,” his title and idea; (2) to understand the Apostle to dwell on the thought of the oneness of the family union of saints and angels under the Eternal Father of Spirits Who gives “name,” designation as His children, to the whole company.

We feel the difficulty of the question. And we are willing to own that there may be communities in the heavenly world to which the idea of family may attach. But if so this is the solitary hint of it in Scripture. And meanwhile the context as a whole seems to us to plead strongly for the idea of oneness as against particularity. And the phrase “in heaven and earth,” compared with Ephesians 1:10 (where carefully observe the connexion), suggests to us far rather the idea of the Great Family “gathered up” in Christ than the extraneous and new idea of many families, connected or not connected with Him. We plead accordingly for the A. V.

And we thus see presented in the passage the great truth, so characteristic of the whole Epistle—the spiritual oneness of the holy Community.

It is worth observing that the word “family” was used by the Rabbis in a sense somewhat akin to the sense (thus explained) of this passage. With them “the upper family” and “the lower family” meant, respectively, the Angels and Israel. Wetstein here quotes a Rabbinic comment on Jeremiah 30:6 :—“All faces; even the faces of the upper and lower family; of the angels and of Israel.” And again; “God does nothing without counsel taken with His upper family.” This is not a perfect parallel here, where, as we take it, the idea is strictly of one united brotherhood; but it is near enough to have had, possibly, a share in moulding the phrase here.—The suggestion to translate the Greek, “the whole family in heaven, and that on earth,” oversteps, we think, the limits of the grammar.Ephesians 3:15. Ἐξ οὗ) of Whom, viz. the Father of Jesus Christ. The foundation of all sonship is in Jesus Christ.—πᾶσα) the whole, of angels, of Jews, of other men.—πατριὰ) family, depending on Him as the [its] Father. Comp. πατριὰ, Luke 2:4; Acts 3:25.—ὀνομάζεται, is named) In the passive or middle voice. They are called the sons of God by God Himself, and delight in this name, Isaiah 44:5, comp. I will call, Romans 9:25-26.Verse 15. - From whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named. So A.V., but R.V. has "every family," holding, doubtless, that the want of the article - πᾶσα πατριὰ not πᾶσαἡπατριὰ - requires this sense. But as in Matthew 2:3; Luke 4:13; Acts 2.36; 7:22, and Ephesians 2:21; so here, πᾶσα without the article may denote the totality of the thing; πᾶσα πατριὰ corresponding to πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ. And this seems more in accord with the scope of the passage, for here the apostle is not distributing into groups, but gathering into one. But what is the precise import of the statement, and for what reason is it introduced? The apostle recognizes all saints, whether in heaven or on earth, as forming one family, and as the whole family derives its name from God, so God may ha expected and appealed to to make full and corresponding provision for the wants of its various sections. The implied appeal is not to the fact that the family is God's family, but to the fact, less important in itself but really including the other, that it is named after him. Among men, one would be held emphatically bound to take an interest in those who are not only his relations but bear his very name. Now, that part of the family which is housed in heaven is gloriously provided for; the apostle proceeds to intercede for the portion still on earth. As the whole family is named after the same Father, is conspicuous before the eyes of all as God's, so it may well be expected that the more needy, feeble, exposed, and tempted part of the family will be treated in every way worthy of its Father.

"Let saints on earth unite to sing
With those to glory gone;
For all the servants of our King,
In earth and heaven, are one.
"One family we dwell in him,
One Church above, beneath;
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream, of death."
Of whom (ἐξ οὗ)

After whom.

The whole family (πᾶσα πατριὰ)

Rev., more correctly, every family. Πατριά is, more properly, a group of families - all who claim a common πατήρ. father. Family, according to our usage of the term, would be οἶκος house. The Israelites were divided into tribes (φυλαί), and then into πατπιαί, each deriving its descent from one of Jacob's grandsons; and these again into οἶκοι houses. So Joseph was both of the house (οἴκου) and family (πατριᾶς) of David. We find the phrase οἶκοι πατριῶν houses of the families, Exodus 12:3; Numbers 1:2. The word occurs only three times in the New Testament: here, Luke 2:4; Acts 3:25. In the last-named passage it is used in a wide, general sense, of nations. Family is perhaps the best translation, if taken in its wider meaning of a body belonging to a common stock - a clan. Fatherhood (Rev., in margin), following the Vulgate paternitas, means rather the fact and quality of paternity. Observe the play of the words, which can scarcely be reproduced in English, pater, patria.

In heaven and earth

To the angelic hosts and the tribes of men alike, God is Father. There may be a suggestion of the different ranks or grades of angels, as principalities, thrones, powers, etc. See Ephesians 3:10. "Wherever in heaven or in earth beings are grouped from their relation to a father, the name they bear in each case is derived from the Father" (Riddle).

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