Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Verse 1. - Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul's one but all-sufficient claim on the Ephesians is his relation to Christ: he is Christ's apostle, not only as sent forth by him, but also as belonging to him; elsewhere his servant or bondman. He makes no claim to their attention on the ground of his great experience in the gospel, his profound study of it, or even his gifts, but rests simply on his being Christ's apostle; thus recognizing Christ as the only Head of the Church, and source of authority therein. By the will of God. The First Person of the Trinity, the Fountain of Godhead, has not only devised the whole scheme of mercy, but has likewise planned the subordinate arrangements by which it is carried out; thus it was by his will that Paul held the office of an apostle of Christ (see Galatians 1:1; Acts 26:7; Galatians 1:11, 12). His authority and his dignity as an apostle are thus the highest that can be: "He that heareth you, heareth me." To the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus. This designation is expanded in the verses that immediately follow. "Saints" means set apart for God, and, as the result thereof, persons pure and holy; "faithful" is equivalent to "Believers;" while "in Christ Jesus" denotes the Source of their life, the element in which they lived, the Vine into which they were grafted. Such persons were the heart and nucleus of the Church, though others might belong to it. In the fervor of his salutations here and elsewhere, Paul seems to see only the genuine spiritual members of the Church; though afterwards he may indicate that all are not such (see Philippians 3:15). With regard to the clause, "that are at Ephesus," see Introduction.
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 2. - Grace unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As in most of Paul's Epistles, "grace" is virtually the first word and the last (Ephesians 6:24), equivalent to free, undeserved mercy in all its manifold forms and manifestations. This Epistle is so full of the subject, that it has been called "The Epistle of Grace." The apostle dwells more fully on it than even in the Epistle to the Romans, and with a more jubilant sense of its richness and sufficiency. Peace is conjoined with grace; they are like mother and daughter, or like twin sisters. Grace is the only foundation of true peace - whether peace with God, peace of conscience, rest and satisfaction of soul, or peace toward our fellow-men. The source of grace and peace is "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The two are always in apposition as the Source of blessing, never in opposition. The notion is eminently unscriptural that the Father personally burned with anger until the Son rushed in to appease; both are in beautiful harmony in the scheme of grace. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son," etc.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Verses 3-14. - THANKSGIVING FOR THEIR DIVINE ORDINATION TO THE BLESSINGS OF GRACE. In this glorious anthem, in which the apostle, tracing all to the Divine Fountain, enumerates the glorious privileges of the Church, and blesses God for them, he first (ver. 3) states summarily the ground of thanksgiving, expanding it with glowing fullness in vers. 4-14. Verse 3. - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every blessing of the Spirit, in heavenly places in Christ. Here we have
(1) the Author of our blessings;
(2) their nature and sphere;
(3) the Medium through whom we have them.
1. The Author is "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus called God his God and his Father (John 20:17) in virtue of the state of subjection to him in which, as the Son of man, he had voluntarily placed himself. In this aspect and relation to Christ, God is here thanked because he hath blessed us in him.
2. Αν πασῄ εὐλογὶᾳ πνευματικῇ: not merely spiritual as opposed to material, but as applied by the Holy Spirit, the office of the Third Person being to bring Divine things into actual contact with human souls - to apply to us the blessings purchased by Christ; which blessings are ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ( ιν heavenly places. They belong to the heavenly kingdom; they are therefore the highest we can attain to. The expression occurs three times, and with the same meaning.
3. Αν Ξριστᾷ. The Medium or Mediator through whom they come is Christ; they are not fruits of the mere natural bounty of God, but of his redeeming bounty - fruits of the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. Thus, in this summary, we recognize what is eminently characteristic of this Epistle - the doctrine of the Trinity, and the function of each Person in the work of redemption. No other writing of the New Testament is so pervaded with the doctrine of the Trinity. The three great topics of the Epistle will be found to be considered in relation to the three Persons of the Trinity. Thus:
1. Origin and foundation of the Church, referred to the eternal counsel and good pleasure of the Father.
2. The actual birth or existence of the Church with all its privileges, to the atoning grace and merit of the Son.
3. The transformation of the Church, the realization of its end or purpose, in its final holiness and glory, to the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. This throws light on the expression, "every blessing;" it includes
(1) all that the Father can bestow;
(2) all that the Son can provide;
(3) all that the Spirit can apply.
The resources of all the three Persons thus conspire to bless the Church. In the verses that follow, the First Person is prominent in vers. 4-6; the second is introduced in vers. 6-12; and the third in vers. 13, 14. But all through the First Person is the great directing Power.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Verse 4. - Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world; literally, he chose us out, or selected us (ἐξελέξατο) for himself (middle voice). The Father chose the heirs of salvation, selected those who were to be quickened from the dead (Ephesians 2:1) and saved, they chose them in Christ - in connection with his work and office as Mediator, giving them to him to be re-decreed (John 17:11, 12); not after man was created, nor after man had fallen, but "before the foundation of the world." We are here face to face with a profound mystery. Before even the world was founded, mankind presented themselves to God as lost; the work of redemption was planned and its details arranged from all eternity. Before such a mystery it becomes us to put the shoes from off our feet, and bow reverently before him whose "judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out." That we should be holy and without blame before him in love. This is obviously the design of God's electing act; ε1FC0;ναι ἡμᾶς cannot denote the ground, but the purpose, of the choice. God did not choose some because he foresaw their holiness, but in order that they might become "holy and without blame." These two terms denote the positive and negative sides of purity: holy - possessed of all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23); without blame, or blemish - marked by no stain or imperfection (see Ephesians 5:27). The terms do not denote justification, but a condition of sanctification which implies justification already bestowed, but goes beyond it; our justification is a step towards our complete final sanctification. This renewal being "before him," must be such as to bear the scrutiny of his eye; therefore not external or superficial merely, but reaching to the very heart and center of our nature (1 Samuel 16:7). The expression further denotes how it is of the very nature and glory of the new life to be spent in God's presence, our souls flourishing in the precious sunshine which ever beams out there from. For, when thus renewed, we do not fly from his presence like Adam (Genesis 3:8), but delight in it (Psalm 42:1; Psalm 63:1). Fear is changed to love (1 John 4:18); the loving relation between us and God is restored. It has been much disputed whether the words ἐν ἀγάπῃ ought to be construed with the fourth verse or with προορίσας in the fifth. The weight of authority seems in favor of the latter; but we prefer the construction which is given both in the Authorized and the Revised Version, first, because if ἐν ἐγάπῃ qualified προορίσας, it would come more naturally after it; and second, because the scope of the passage, the train of the apostle's thought, seems to require us to keep ἐν ἀγάπῃ in ver. 4. We never could come to be holy and without blemish before God unless the loving relations between us were restored (comp. Ephesians 3:17, "Rooted and grounded in love"). The spirit of love, trust, admiration, directed to God helps our complete sanctification - changes us into the same image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Verse 5. - Having predestinated (or, foreordained) us to adoption through Jesus Christ unto himself. The same idea is denoted by προορίσας in this verse and ἐξελέξατο in ver. 3, but while in ξελέξατο the idea of selection out from among others is prominent, in προορίσας the special phase of thought is that of the time, πρὸ, before - before the foundation of the world. Both denote the exercise of Divine sovereignty. In ver. 4 we have the ultimate purpose of God's decree the entire sanctification of the elect; here, in ver. 5, we find one of the intermediate steps of the process - adoption. The apostle's reason for speaking of adoption in this place, and of justification afterwards, is that be bad just referred to the restoration of a relation of lore between us and God as connected with our ultimate complete sanctification; thus it was natural for him to bring in our adoption as the preordained act in which this loving relation is formed. Our obedience is not the forced obedience of servants, but the loving obedience of sons. Adoption implies more than sentiment - a real legal relation to God as his sons (Romans 8:17). The adoption is "by Jesus Christ:" "As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). And it is εἰς αὐτὸν, unto or into himself - denoting a movement towards God which terminates in union to Him. According to the good pleasure of his will. The spring or motive to the selection is solely in God, not in man. It is an act of sovereignty. It has been disputed whether "the good pleasure of his will" is equivalent to benevolentia or to bene placitum. Parallel passages like Matthew 11:26 and Luke 10:21 lead us to prefer the latter. The idea of kindness is not excluded, but it is not what is affirmed. Kindness is always involved in the Divine will; but the point here is simply that it pleased God to choose and ordain the Ephesian believers to the privilege of adoption through Jesus Christ. This is presented as a ground of praise, a reason for their blessing God. The Divine sovereignty is not presented in Scripture to seekers, but to finders. It is apt to embarrass those that seek; and accordingly the aspect of God's character presented to them is his good will to men, his free offer of mercy: "Look unto me, and be ye saved;" "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." But it is a ground of thanksgiving to those who hare accepted the offer; they see that before the foundation of the world God chose them in Christ. What an interest he must have had in them, and how thoroughly they may rely on his finishing the work he has begun! Divine sovereignty, human responsibility, and the free and universal offer of mercy are all found in Scripture, and, though we are unable to harmonize them by our logic, ought all to have a place in our minds.
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Verse 6. - To the praise of the glory of his grace; with a view to praise being given to the glory of his grace. The purpose of grace quoad man, is to make him perfectly holy; quoad God, is to give to the universe a right conception of his grace, and draw forth corresponding tributes of praise. It is to show that Divine grace is not a limp, shallow attribute, but one of glorious riches, deserving infinite praise. The idea of the richness, fullness, abundance, of God's grace is prominent throughout the Epistle. God desires to draw attention, not only to this attribute, but to the boundlessness of it - thus to draw the love and confidence of his creatures to himself and inspire them with the desire to imitate him (comp. Matthew 18:21-35). Wherein he abounded toward us in the Beloved. Two slight difficulties are found here - one in the text, the other in the interpretation. After χάριτος αὐτοῦ, some copies read ἐν ῇ, others ηης. A.V. follows the former; R.V. the latter. Ξαριτόω usually means to bestow grace; sometimes, to make gracious or beautiful. The former is more in accordance with New Testament usage (Alford) and with the tenor of the passage. The glory of the grace of which God desires to create a true impression is not an abstraction, not a glory hidden away in stone inaccessible region, but a revealed glory, a communicated glory; it is revealed in the grace wherein he abounded to us, or which he freely bestowed on us, in the Beloved. The grace bestowed on believers exemplifies the glorious quality of the attribute - its glorious riches. The connection of God with Christ in the bestowal of this grace, and of believers in the reception of it, is again noted by the remarkable term, "in the Beloved." That the Father's relation to Christ was one of infinite love is a fact never to be lost sight cf. His having constituted the Beloved One the Kinsman and Mediator of sinners shows the riches of the glory of his grace. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he hot, with him also freely give us all things?" Our union to the Beloved, our participating in all the blessings of his purchase, our becoming heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, further illustrates the glorious riches of his grace. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!"
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Verse 7. - In whom we have the redemption through his blood. Some of the blessings referred to in ver. 3 are now specified - be-ginning with redemption (τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν). The article makes it emphatic - the great redemption, the real redemption, compared to which all ether redemptions are but shadows. It is a redemption through blood, therefore a proper propitiation or expiation, blood being always the emblem of explanation, In Christ, or in union to Christ, we have or are having this blessing; it is not merely in existence, it is ours, we being in him by faith: not a privilege of the future merely, but of the present as well. Even the forgiveness of our sins. Αφεσιν denotes release, separation from all the consequences of our transgressions; equivalent to Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." According to the riches of his grace. The completeness of the forgiveness, its ready bestowal now, the security of its being continued in the future, and such like qualities show the richness of his grace (comp. Matthew 18:27; Luke 7:42, 47).
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Verse 8. - Which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. This rendering of the R.V. is better than the A.V., "wherein he hath abounded," for ῆς before ἐπερίσσευσεν can hardly be put for the dative; it is genitive by attraction for the accusative. The wisdom and prudence refer to God; he has not made his grace abound to us in a random manner, but in a carefully regulated manner. This is more fully explained afterwards, in reference to God's concealment for a time of the universality of his grace, but manifestation of it now. Some have found a difference between σοφία and φρονήσις, the one being theoretical wisdom and the other practical, or the one intellectual and the other moral; but possibly they may be meant merely to intensify the idea - the height of wisdom is shown in God's way of making his grace abound toward us (comp. Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!").
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Verse 9. - Having made known unto us the mystery of his will. The wide extent of God's grace was a mystery, i.e. a hidden counsel, before Christ came and died, but it is now made known. In this, and not in the modern sense of mystery, the word μυστήριον is used by Paul. The thing hidden and now revealed was not the gospel, but God's purpose with reference to its limits or sphere (see Ephesians 3:6). According to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself. The whole phraseology denotes that, in this transaction, God was not influenced by any external considerations; the whole reason for it sprang from within. The threefold expression brings this out:
(1) according to his good pleasure (see ver. 5);
(2) he purposed, or formed a purpose;
(3) in himself, without foreign aid, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34).
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Verse 10. - With a view to the dispensation of the fullness of the times (or, seasons) (vers. 9 and 10 are one sentence, which should not be broken up). This seems to denote the times of the gospel generally; not, as in Galatians 4:4, the particular time of Christ's advent; the οἰκονομία, or economy, of the gospel being that during which, in its successive periods, all God's schemes are to ripen or come to maturity, and be fulfilled. To gather together under one head all things in Christ. Ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι is a word of some difficulty. It is true it is derived from κεφάλαιον, not κεφαλή: therefore some have thought that it does not include the idea of headship; but the relation of κεφάλαιον, to κεφαλή is as close that this can hardly be. The word expresses the Divine purpose - what God προέθετο ( ωηιξη was to restore in Christ a lost unity, to bring together disunited elements, viz. all things, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth. There is no hint here of a universal restoration. Such a notion would be in fiat contradiction to the doctrine of Divine election, which dominates the whole passage. God's purpose is to form a united kingdom, consisting of the unfallen and the restored - the unfallen in heaven, and the restored on earth, and to gather this whole body together under Christ as its Head (see Ephesians 3:15). We cannot say that this purpose has been fully effected as yet; but things are moving towards it, and one day it will be wholly realized. "He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Verse 11. - Even in him - in whom we wore also made his inheritance. This is the literal rendering of ἐκληρώθημεν, and it is more expressive than the A.V., "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance." God taking us for his own heritage involves more than our getting an inheritance from God (see Deuteronomy 4:20, "The Lord hath taken you... to be unto him a people of inheritance"). It is implied that God will protect, care for, improve, and enjoy his own inheritance; he will be much with them and do all that is necessary for them. Formerly God's inheritance was Israel only; but now it is much wider. All that God was to Israel of old he will be to his Church now. Having been predestinated according to the purpose. The reason why the reference to predestination is repeated is to show that this new privilege of the whole Church as God's inheritance is not a fortuitous benefit, but the result of God's deliberate and eternal foreordination; it rests therefore on an immovable foundation. Of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will. Predestination is not an exception to God's usual way of working; he works, or works out (ἐνεργοῦτος) all things on the same principle, according to the decision to which his will comes. When we think of the sovereign will of God as determining all things, and in particular determining who are to be his heritage, we must remember how differently constituted the will of an infinitely holy Being is from that of frail and fallen creatures. The fallen creature's will is often whimsical, the result of some freak or fancy; often, too, it is the outcome of pride, avarice, sensual affection, or some other evil feeling; but God's will is the expression of his infinite perfections, and must always be infinitely holy, wise, and good. Willfulness in man is utterly different from willfulness in God; but the recoil we often have from the doctrine of God's doing all things from his mere bene placitum, or according to the counsel of his own will, arises from a tendency to ascribe to his will the caprice which is true only of our own.
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Verse 12. - That we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ. The "we" which hitherto has been applied to the whole Church, Jewish and Gentile, begins to have a more limited reference, and to contrast with "you" in ver. 13. The first "we" in this verse embraces all, as in the preceding part of the chapter; the second (omitted in the A.V.) is conditioned by the words following, and is applicable to the Jewish Christians, who, through the promises given to the fathers, had seen Christ's day afar off, and had thus hoped in him. This special reference to ἡμᾶς is followed immediately by a reference to ὑμεῖς.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Verse 13. - In whom are ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the good news of your salvation. A.V. has "in whom ye also trusted," or hoped, supplying a verb from προηλπικότας ιν ´ερ. 13, but without the prefix. This seems hardly natural, because the prefix πρὸ is characteristic and emphatic in ver. 12. It is a much less strain to supply simply ἐστὲ, the important point being that you are now in him - in Christ. This expression, "in Christ," is one of the hinges of the Epistle; it occurs times almost without number, denoting the intimate vital union through faith between Christ and his people, as of the members to the head, in virtue of which they not only get the benefit of his atonement, but share his vital influences, live by faith on the Son of God. Having heard and received the truth as it is in Jesus, the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified Jesus, they became one with him, just as freely as did the believing Jews, and to the same blessed effects. More than that - in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise; thus receiving a new ground for thankfulness, a new proof of the riches of the grace of God. Many explain this seal of baptism, which undoubtedly seals Christ and all his blessings to believers. But though the seal of the Holy Spirit may have been given in and with baptism, it is not identical with baptism. The impression of it is partly within believers and partly without. Within, it is the felt result of the working of the Holy Spirit - the feeling of satisfaction and delight in the work and person of Christ, of love, confidence, and joy flowing out toward God, and the desire and endeavor in all things to be conformed to his will. Without, it is the fruit of the Spirit, the new man, created in righteousness and holiness after the image of Christ. Within, the Spirit bears witness with their spirits; without, the transformed life corroborates the inward witness, and gives it to the world. The first is never complete without the second, nor the second without the first. The spiritual history of believers is thus presented:
(1) hearing the truth;
(3) being sealed.
The Spirit is called the Spirit of the promise, because he is often promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 36:27; Joel 3:1, etc.).
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Verse 14. - Who is the earnest of our inheritance. The gift of the Spirit is not only a seal, but an earnest, firstfruit, or installment, a pledge that the rest shall follow. The seal of the Spirit not only assures us of the full inheritance to come, but gives us a right conception of its nature. It shows us the kind of provision God makes for those whom he takes as his heritage, his peculiar people. It is an inward heaven the Spirit brings them. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." The full inheritance will consist in a heart in full sympathy with God, and in those occupations and joys, intellectual and moral, which are most congenial to such a heart. Unto the redemption of the purchased possession. The until of the A.V. is not textual, and does not give the force of εἰς, which implies that the earnest of the Spirit is a contribution toward the result described; it tends to realize it. "Redemption" here is not quite equivalent to "redemption" in ver. 7; for there it is a thing accomplished, here it is a thing to come. It is obvious that here the meaning is the completed redemption - the full and final deliverance of the Lord's heritage from all sin and sorrow, from all the evils and disorders of this life. The term περιποιήσις, translated" purchased possession," is an unusual one. But its resemblance to περιούσιος, the Septuagint rendering for "a special people;" its use by Peter, λαὸς περιποίησεως, "a peculiar people;" the use of the verb ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ η}ν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτου, "the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood;" - show that it must be regarded in this place as denoting the special, own, purchased possession of God, whose final glory is so often presented to our thoughts in this Epistle. To the praise of his glory. For the third time in this paragraph, these or similar words are introduced. In this place the precise meaning is that the consummation of redemption will be the highest tribute to God's glory - his infinite excellence will be wonderfully manifested thereby. Neither men nor angels are qualified to apprehend the glorious excellence of God in an abstract way; it needs to be revealed, exhibited in acts and operations. The teaching of this verse is that it will be manifested with triumphant brightness in the final redemption of the Church, when the groans of nature shall come to an end, and the creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into "the glorious liberty of the sons of God" (Romans 8:21).
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Verses 15-23. - PRAYER FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH. Verse 15. - Wherefore I also, having heard of the faith among you in the Lord Jesus, and your love which extends to all the saints. The "wherefore" has reference to their present standing in grace, described in the verses preceding: since ye have heard, believed, been sealed, and thereby shown to be in the right line, I apply myself towards promoting your progress, towards advancing you to the higher stages of the Christian life. Special mention is made of their faith and love, as cardinal Christian graces, to which elsewhere the apostle adds hope (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). The literal expression, "faith among you" (καθ ὑμᾶς), indicates that it was a marked social feature, but perhaps not universal; while their love was not mere general amiability, but a love that embraced the saints as such, having a special complacency in them, and being directed to them all. If it be asked - Could this knowledge of the condition of his correspondents have been derived from hearsay ("having heard") if the letter was addressed to the Ephesians, among whom Paul had lived so long, and whose condition he must have known by personal intercourse (Acts 19:10; Acts 20:31)? we reply that, though he derived his first acquaintance from personal intercourse, it was some years since he had been at Ephesus, and the ἀκούσας refers to what he had heard in the interval (see Introduction).
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
Verse 16. - Cease not to give thanks for you. This clause expresses the continuation of a former action - the giving thanks for them had begun before the hearing of their faith and love - from the days, in short, of his personal intercourse. We notice as a remarkable feature of Paul's personal religion, as well as his pastoral care, the frequency of his thanksgiving, indicating the prevalence in him of a bright, joyous state of mind, and tending to increase and perpetuate the same. Constantly to recognize God's goodness in the past begets a larger expectation of it in the future. Making mention of you in my prayers. This seems additional to his giving thanks. "Prayers" (προσευχῶν) refers more to supplication and entreaty. While thankful for them, his heart was not satisfied regarding them; he wished them to forget the things behind, and reach forth to those before. The apostle's prayers for his spiritual charge are always remarkable. They are very short, but wonderfully deep and comprehensive; very rich and sublime in aspiration; powerful in their pleas, whether expressed or implied; and exhaustive in the range of blessings which they implore.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
Verse 17. - That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. The invocations of Paul - the terms by which he calls on God - are always significant, involving a plea for the blessings sought. God, as "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ," gave to him the Holy Spirit without measure, and might well, therefore, be asked and expected to give the gifts of the same Spirit to those who were "in him" - one with him as members of his body. Being also the "Father of glory," and having glorified Jesus, even after his suffering, with the glory which he had with him before the world began, he might well be asked and expected to glorify his people too. May give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him. "Spirit" here is neither exclusively the Holy Spirit nor the spirit of man, but the complex idea of the spirit of man dwelt in and moved by the Spirit of God (Alford). Wisdom seems to denote the general gift of spiritual illumination; revelation, capacity of apprehending the revealed - of perceiving the drift and meaning of what God makes known, so that it may be a real revelation to us (comp. Matthew 13:11). Ἐπιγνώσει is something more than mere γνώσει - full knowledge of Christ, implying that it is in becoming better acquainted with Christ that we get the spirit of wisdom and revelation. In seeking to know Christ more, we are in the true way to get more insight into all that is Divine (croup. John 14:9). The importance of seeking more knowledge, even after we have believed and been settled by the Holy Spirit, is here apparent; a growing knowledge is a most healthful feature of Christian life. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Verse 18. - That having the eyes of your heart enlightened. "The eyes of your heart" is an unusual expression, but it denotes that to see things clearly there is needed, not merely lumen siccum, but lumen madidum (to borrow terms of Lord Bacon), not merely intellectual clearness, but moral susceptibility and warmth - a movement of the heart as well as the head (compare the opposite state, "blindness of the heart," Ephesians 4:18). Ye may know what is the hope of his calling; the hope which he calls you to cherish. The glory which he invites you to look forward to, when Christ shall come again, how sure it is and how excellent! How infinitely it surpasses all earthly glory! How it at once ravishes and satisfies the heart! And what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. If the saints form God's heritage (see ver. 11), it may be asked Where are the riches of God's glory in them? But it is not necessary to take the ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις so literally. It may be rendered, "in reference to the saints." The riches of the glory of his inheritance in reference to the saints is the riches of the glory of their privileges as the Lord's heritage, or people; that is, their privileges are glorious. But this glory is not limp, limited - it is wonderfully rich, full, abundant. God gives liberally - gives as a King, gives glory to all Christ's people. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4); "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them." The difference between this glory and ether glory is, human glory is often unjustly accorded, it passes away with wonderful quickness; but this glory is real and everlasting. "When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Verse 19. - And what the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe. A new object of knowledge is here brought forward - knowledge of a power which works in us - a great power, a Divine power, a power surpassingly great. The whole energy of the Divine Being is turned on to our feeble, languid nature, vivifying, purifying, and transforming it, making it wonderfully active where all was feebleness before, as the turning on of steam suddenly wakens up a whole mass of inert machinery. When we think of the glory of the inheritance, we feel unfit for it; our narrow hearts, cold temperaments, feeble and dislocated faculties, how can they ever be right? Our fear is removed when we think of the greatness of the Divine power that works in us - God's power to transform us so that, "though we have lien among the pots, we shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." According to the working of his mighty power. We are now furnished with a standard and sample of the mighty power which energizes in believers are referred to one of its grandest achievements, in order to elevate our conceptions of what it is capable of effecting in us. In the prophets we find a similar encouragement for God's people, in sublime descriptions of the almighty power of him who was working in them and for them (Isaiah 40:21, etc.; Isaiah 45:7, etc.).
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Verse 20. - Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. The same power that produced the marvelous miracle of Christ's resurrection now works in the hearts of believers. To appreciate this, we must bear in mind the apostle's full doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, embracing not only the revivifying of his dead body, but the transformation of that body into a spiritual body, and the constituting of Jesus a second Adam, who should transmit or communicate to His spiritual seed both a renewed soul and a glorified body, as the first Adam transmitted a sinful nature and a corruptible body to his natural seed. The power that accomplished all this now works in believers, and can surely work in them all needed transformation. And set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, effecting on him a change alike sudden and marvelous: from the cross and the tomb to the throne of glory, from being as a worm and no man, to be higher than the kings of the earth - King of kings, and Lord of lords. It is frequently represented in Scripture that Jesus in heaven is at the right hand of God. There must be a spot in the heavens where his glorified body exists, in immediate contact with some manifestation of the glory of the Father. There Stephen saw him; thence he came to meet Saul on the way to Damascus; and his promise to his people is Where I am, there shall ye be also (John 14:3).
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Verse 21. - Far above all rule, and power, and might, and dominion. Separate shades of meaning may doubtless be found for these expressions, but the main effect of the accumulation is to expand and deepen the idea of Christ's universal lordship. Hardly anything is revealed to us on the various orders of the spiritual powers, unfallen and fallen; and the speculations on them in which the Fathers used to indulge are of no value; but whatever may be true of them, Christ is exalted far above them all - far above every creature in earth, heaven, or hell (comp. Psalm 2; Psalm 72; Psalm 110; Daniel 7:13, 14, etc.). And every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. The pro-eminence of his Name is to be eternal. It shall never be eclipsed by any other name, nor shall there ever be a name worthy to be coupled with his Name. In human history we find no name that can be fitly coupled with Christ's. In the world to come, it shall ever shine forth with an unapproached effulgence. All this is said to exalt our sense of the Divine power that so raised up and exalted the God-Man, Christ Jesus - the same power that still works in believers.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Verse 22. - And put all things under his feet; a strong, figurative expression, denoting high sovereignty. It does not refer merely to defeated and arrested enemies, but to the whole of creation and the fullness thereof. They are as thoroughly under Christ and at his disposal as if they were literally under his feet. As a military commander, proceeding even through his own country, has power to requisition everything needful for his army, and deal with all property as may be required for military purposes, so Christ has the whole creation at his disposal, animate and inanimate, hostile and friendly. And gave him to be Head over all things to the Church. The exaltation of Christ is not merely an honor conferred on himself, but has also a definite practical purpose; it is for the benefit of the Church. God gave him to the Church as Head over all things. The gift of Christ to the Church is the gift of One who has sovereign authority over all things. The official subordination of Christ to the Father is recognized throughout this remarkable passage. So in Philippians, though he was "in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." It is this Jesus, in the form of a servant and in the likeness of men, that is now Head over all things, and as such given by the Father to the Church. With such a Head, what need the Church fear, and what can she want?
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Verse 23. - Which is his body. The Church is Christ's body in a real though spiritual sense. He is the Head, his people the members; he the Vine, they the branches. He dwells in the Church as life dwells in a living body. He fills it with his life, replenishes it with his strength, feeds it with his body and blood, beautifies it with his comeliness, calms it with his peace, brightens it with his holiness, and finally glorifies it with his glory. All things are delivered unto him of the Father; and all that he has he has for the Church: "My beloved is mine, and I am his." The fullness of him that filleth all in all. The grammatical structure of the words would lead us to construe "fullness" with "the Church," and to regard the Church as Christ's πλήρωμα. Some object to this, inasmuch as, in point of fact, the Church is often very empty, and therefore not worthy of the term "fullness." But it is not meant that the Church has actually received all the fullness of him who filleth all in all, but only that she is in the course of receiving it. The Church on earth is an ever-changing body, perpetually receiving new members, who are at first empty; so that it must always in this state be in the course of filling, never filled. It is in the course of being filled with all Divine things - with all the treasures of heaven. As the empty cells of the honeycomb are being filled with the sweet essences of flowers, so the empty vessels of the Church are being filled with the glorious treasures of God; or, as the courts and compartments of a great international exhibition get filled up with the choicest products of the lands, so the Church gets filled with the handiwork of the grace of God. When the Church is completed, it will be a representation of the fullness of God; all of God that can be communicated to men will be made manifest in the Church. For he whose fullness the Church is, is he that filleth all in all, or filleth all with all. He possesses all things, and he fills all space with the all things. He fills the ocean with water, the organic world with life, the firmament with stars, the entire creation with forms innumerable, alike beautiful and useful. So also he fills the Church. Thus appropriately concludes this chapter, beginning (ver. 3) with thanksgiving to him who had blessed the Ephesians with every blessing of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, and now ending with a sublime picture of the Infinite One filling the Church with these Divine blessings out of the infinite stores of the kingdom of heaven. Thus we see the quality of richness, exuberance, overflowing abundance which is so conspicuously ascribed in this Epistle to the grace of God (comp. Psalm 36:8; Psalm 103:3-5; Matthew 5:3, etc.).