And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Verses 1-10. - SPIRITUAL HISTORY OF THE EPHESIANS. This passage corresponds to Genesis 1. It is a history of creation, and we note the same great stages.
1. Chaos (vers. 1-3).
2. The dawn - the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters (ver. 4).
3. The work of creation - in successive stages (vers. 4-10). Verse 1. - You also, who were dead in your trespasses and your sins. The apostle returns from his digression, in which he had shown the marvelous working of the Divine power on Christ, to show the working of the same power on the Ephesian converts themselves. The ὑμἀς is not governed by any verb going before; it manifestly depends on the συνεζωοποίησεν of ver. 5, but it is separated from it by a new digression (vers. 2, 3), on which the apostle immediately starts. While the same quickening power of God was exerted on Christ and on the Ephesians, it was exerted to very different effects: in the case of Christ, raising him literally from the dead and exalting him to heavenly glory; in the case of the Ephesians, raising them from spiritual death and exalting them to high spiritual privileges. We may observe the change from the second to the first person, and vice versa, in this chapter as in Ephesians 1. Second person (vers. 1, 8, 11); first (vers. 3, 10, 14); and the two streams brought together (ver. 18). The chapter closes beautifully with an emblem of the Church as the one temple of which all believers are parts. The death ascribed to the Ephesians in their natural state is evidently spiritual death, and "trespasses and sins," being in the dative (νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασι καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις), seems to indicate the cause of death - "dead through your trespasses and your sins" (R.V.); "dead of your trespasses," etc., is suggested by Alford. It is not easy to assign a different meaning to the two nouns here; some suggest acts of transgression for the one, and sinful tendencies or principles for the other, but this distinction cannot be carried out in all other passages. The killing effect of sin is indicated. As sins of sensuality kill truthfulness, industry, integrity, and all virtue, so sin generally, affecting as it does our whole nature, kills, or does not suffer to live, the affections and movements of the spiritual life. A state of "death" implies previous life - the race lived before; it implies also a state of insensibility, of utter powerlessness and helplessness.
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Verse 2. - Wherein aforetime ye walked according to the course of this world. The idea of a dead creature walking is not altogether incongruous. It implies that a kind of life remained sufficient for walking; but not the true, full, normal life; rather the life of a galvanized corpse, or of one walking in sleep. The figurative use of walking for living, or carrying on our life, is frequent in this Epistle (Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 5:2, etc.). "The course of this world," elsewhere" the world," denotes the present system of things, as conducted by those who have regard only to things seen and temporal, and no regard to God or to the future life. Where there is spiritual death there is insensibility to these things. According to the prince of the power of the air. It is obvious that this is equivalent to "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), but the explanation of the term is difficult. Allusion is made to a corporate body, "the power [or, 'government'] (ἐξουσία) of the air," and to one who is "prince" of this government. There is no difficulty in identifying the evil one and his host, of whom Milton gives such graphic pictures. But why should they be specially connected with the air? The notion, entertained by some of the Fathers and others, that storms and disturbances of the atmosphere are caused by them, is preposterous; it is unscriptural (Psalm 148:8) and quite unscientific. The term seems to denote that evil spirits, who have some power of influencing us by their temptations, have their abode in the atmosphere, or at least haunt it, being invisible like it, yet exercising a real influence on human souls, and drawing them in worldly directions, and contrary to the will of God. The spirit which is now working hi the sons of disobedience. The fact that this spirit is still working in others makes the escape of the Ephesians from him the more striking. He is not destroyed, but vigorously at work even yet. Though Jesus beheld him fall from heaven as lightning, and though he said that the prince of this world had been judged, these expressions denote a prophetic rather than an actual condition. This spirit energizes in the "sons of disobedience." This designation is striking; it denotes persons born of disobedience, bred by disobedience, having disobedience in their very nature; comp. Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God," and passages where fallen man is called a rebel (Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 63:10; Psalm 68:6; Jeremiah 5:23, etc.). It denotes the essential antagonism of man's will to God's, arising from man's devotion to this world and its interests, and God's regard to what is higher and holier - an antagonism often held in check and suppressed - but bursting out wildly at times in fierce opposition, as at the tower of Babel or the crucifixion of Jesus. The devil inflames man's inherent dislike to God's will, and encourages outbreaks of it.
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Verse 3. - Among whom we also all once spent our life in the lusts of our flesh. The apostle here brings Jews and Gentiles together. "We also," as well as you - we were all in the same condemnation, all in a miserable plight, not merely occasionally dipping into sin, but spending our very lives in the lusts or desires of our flesh, living fro' no noble ends, but in an element of carnal desire, as if there were nothing higher than to please the carnal nature. Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Desires of the flesh, the grosser and more animal propensities (the flesh, in Scripture, has often a wider sense; see Galatians 5:19-21); and of the mind or thoughts, διανοιῶν, the objects that we thought about, whatever they might be, - the waywardness of our thoughts seems to be denoted, the random roaming of the mind hither and thither, towards this pleasure and that, sometimes serious, sometimes frivolous, but all marked by the absence of any controlling regard to the will of God. The life indicated is a life of indulgence in whatever natural feelings may arise in us-be they right or be they wrong. And we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. This is a substantive clause, standing on its own basis, a separate fact, not merely an inference from the previous statements. The life described would have exposed us to wrath; but beyond and before this we were by nature children of wrath. "By nature" denotes something in our constitution, in our very being; and "even as the rest" denotes that this was universal, not a peculiarity affecting some, but a general feature applicable to all. "Children of wrath" denotes that we belonged to a race which had incurred the wrath of God; our individuality was so far absorbed by the social body that we shared the lot under which it had come. If there be something in this that seems contrary to justice, that seems to condemn men for the sins of others, we remark
(1) that in actual life we constantly find individuals suffering for the sin of the corporation, domestic, social, or national, with which they are identified;
(2) that apart from this altogether, our individual offenses would expose us to God's wrath; and
(3) that the moral and legal relations of the individual to the corporation is a subject of difficulty, and in this case makes a strong demand on our faith. We should accept the teaching of the Word of God upon it, and leave our righteous Judge to vindicate himself. "Wrath," as applied to God, must be regarded as essentially different from the same word when used of man. In the latter case it usually indicates a disorderly, excited, passionate feeling, as of one who has lost self-control; when used of God, it denotes the holy, calm, deep opposition of his nature to sin, compelling him to inflict the appropriate punishment.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Verse 4. - But God, being rich in mercy. The preceding verses convey the idea of a rushing towards inevitable ruin - towards some frightful cataract, when all help from man is hopeless. Man's extremity becomes God's opportunity. The "but" is very emphatic, and wonderfully reverses the picture. The sovereignty of God is very apparent, on its gracious side. It interposes to rescue those who would otherwise plunge into irretrievable ruin. We have here the filling up of that Divine saying, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thine help." The genesis of salvation is declared to be in two of God's attributes, of which the first is mercy, or compassion. God has a tender, yearning feeling towards men brought to misery by their own sins. And this feeling is not shallow or spare - he is rich in mercy. It is an exuberant, full-flowing feeling in God ("Thy mercy ... is in the heavens," Psalm 36:5), and may therefore be appealed to trustfully. For his great love wherewith he loved us. The other attribute from which the plan of salvation sprang is God's love. Love is more than compassion. Compassion may be confined to the breast, but love goes forth in active beneficence. It makes common cause with its object. It cannot rest till its object is lint right. Two expressions are used intensifying this Divine love:
(1) his great love;
(2) love with which he loved us;
the verb of love governing the noun of love makes the idea rich and strong. This view of the exuberance of the Divine attributes from which salvation has its rise is in harmony with the whole character of the Epistle.
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Verse 5. - Even when we were dead in our sins. Repeated from ver. 1, in order to set in its true light the declaration that follows of what God did for us to make more emphatic the free and sovereign mercy of God. Though sin is the abominable thing which he hates, loathsome to him in the last degree, he did not turn from us when we were immersed in it; nor did he wait till we began to move towards him: he began to influence us even when we were dead. Made us alive together with Christ (συνεζωοποίησε τῷ Ξριστῷ). Made us alive with the life which is in Christ and which flows from Christ. A parallel is run between the way in which God's power operated on the body of Christ, and the way in which it operates on the souls of believers in him in respect of
(1) the quickening;
(2) the raising up from the grave;
(3) the seating of them in heavenly places.
The Father, having "given to the Son to have life in himself," and "the Son quickening whom he will" (John 6:21, 26), by God's decree we were first quickened by him, made partakers of Christ's life (John 11:25; comp. John 14:19; John 15:5; Colossians 3:4; Galatians 2:20, etc.). All the life we had lost was restored - the life forfeited by transgression, the life of a calm and well-ordered heart, the sublime life of fellowship with God. By grace have ye been saved. This is a parenthetical clause, more fully dwelt on in ver. 8, thrown in here abruptly by the apostle in the fullness of his heart, to throw light on this great wonder - that Christ should impart his own life to souls dead in sin. Grace in opposition to human merit is at the root of the whole arrangement; free, undeserved mercy. It is not anything that God is bound to by the necessity of his nature. It is the result of his will, not of his nature. Had it not been for his good pleasure, salvation had never been. "Saved" is the past participle (σεσωσμένοι), denoting, not the act of being saved, but the fact of having been saved. Salvation in a real sense is a present possession. When we are one with Christ we are justified freely by God's grace, our trespasses are all forgiven. The spirit of new moral life has been given to us; we are made alive to God. But while salvation is a present attainment in a real sense, its full realization is future, for that includes perfect holiness, and also the glorification of the body. In this sense salvation is to come (Romans 8:24; Romans 13:11).
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Verse 6. - And hath raised us up with him (comp. Philippians 3:10); so that we no longer walk "according to the course of this world," but according to the life of Christ; we walk "in newness of life." And seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. As God placed Jesus at his right hand in heaven, so he has placed his people with him in heavenly places; i.e. places where the privileges of heaven are dispensed, where the air of heaven is breathed, where the fellowship and the enjoyment of heaven are known, where an elevation of spirit is experienced as if heaven were begun. Such was the case of the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration; of the two on the way to Emmaus, when their heart burned within them; of the beloved disciple when he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day;" of many at the Holy Supper, or in fervent communion with brother and sister believers, when they seem at the very gate of heaven. This is sometimes the experience at conversion, but the vividness of the feeling does not always abide. The repetition of "in Christ Jesus" in this connection emphasizes the fact that this gracious proceeding of God towards us is in immediate connection with the work and person of Christ. It is as being one with Christ Jesus that all this raising up comes to us.
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Verse 7. - That in the ages to come he might show forth the riches of his grace. A special purpose served by God's free grace bestowed on such persons as the Ephesians. It was intended as a lesson for future ages. "The ages to come" denotes eras to begin from that time, running on now, and to continue hereafter. It would be a profitable lesson for the people of these ages to think of the Ephesians, far as they were by nature from God, receiving his blessing so abundantly. From this they would learn how great are the riches of God's grace. In kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. The particular channel in which the riches of his grace flows is kindness shown to us in Christ Jesus. Kindness in the matter of the blessing, forgiving us freely, and accepting and adopting us in him; kindness in the manner of the blessing, dealing with us as Jesus dealt with the woman that was a sinner, or with the thief on the cross, or with Peter after he had fallen, or with Saul of Tarsus; kindness in the extent of the blessing, providing amply for every want; kindness in the duration of the blessing - for evermore. But again, the Medium or Mediator of blessing is specified - "in Christ Jesus." It is not the kindness of providence, not the natural bountifulness of God, but that kindness and bountifulness which are specially connected with the atoning work of Christ: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself."
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Verse 8. - For by grace have ye been saved, through faith. He repeats what he had said parenthetically (ver. 5), in order to open the subject up more fully. On the part of God, salvation is by grace; on the part of man, it is through faith. It does not come to us by an involuntary act, as light falls on our eyes, sounds on our ears, or air enters our lungs. When we are so far enlightened as to understand about it, there must be a personal reception of salvation by us, and that is by faith. Faith at once believes the good news of a free salvation through Christ, and accepts Christ as the Savior. We commit ourselves to him, trust ourselves to him for that salvation of which he is the Author. In the act of thus entrusting ourselves to him for his salvation, we receive the benefit, and are saved. It is not that faith is accepted by God in place of works, but because faith indicates that attitude of men towards Christ in which it pleases God to save them, transferring to him all their guilt, imputing to them all his merit. And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Which of the two things is meant - salvation or faith? The grammatical structure and the analogy of the passage favor the former view, "Your salvation is not of yourselves," though many able men have taken the latter. The apostle is so anxious to bring out the great distinguishing doctrine of grace that he puts it in all lights, affirms it positively, contrasts it with its opposite, and emphasizes it by repetition. It is a gift, not a purchase; a free gift, without money and without price; what would never have been yours, but for the generosity of God. It is very usual in the New Testament thus to represent salvation; cf. our Lord's words to Nicodemus (John 3:16); to the woman of Samaria (John 4:14); St. Paul's "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15); "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23); and 1 John 5:11, "God gave unto us eternal life, and the life is in his Son." This usage confirms the view that it is not merely faith, but the whole work and person of Christ which faith receives, that is meant here as the "gift of God."
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Verse 9. - Not of works, lest any man should boast. Exegetical of the last clause, "Not of yourselves; certainly not of your works." The suppression of boasting was a purpose of God in his scheme of salvation; not the chief or final purpose, any more than the manifestation of his grace in coming ages was his chief or final purpose in showing mercy to the Ephesians, but inseparable from the nature of his plan. The spirit of glorying is essentially unsuited to the relations between the creature and the Creator, between the Redeemer and the redeemed. It is the very opposite of the spirit, "Not unto us, O Lord" (Psalm 115:1) - the spirit that casts its crown before the throne, and that breathes in the songs of heaven, "Unto him that loved us ... be glory and dominion forever and ever" (Revelation 1:5, 6).
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Verse 10. - For we are his workmanship. Another illustration and evidence of grace. We have to be fashioned anew by God before we can do anything aright (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Anything right in us is not the cause of grace, but its fruit. There seems to be no special reason for the change from the second to the first person. Created in Christ Jesus for good works. So little inward capacity had we for such works, that we required to be created in Christ Jesus in order that we might do them. The inward new birth of the soul is indicated. When good works were required, this gracious change had to be wrought to secure them. The purpose of the new creation is to produce them. Christ "gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people of his own, zealous of good works." It is not good works first, and grace after; but grace first, and good works after (see Titus 2:11, 14). Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. A further proof of the true origin of good works. They are the subjects of a Divine decree. Before the foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by grace should walk in good works. The term "walk," here denotes the habitual tenor of the life; it is to be spent in an atmosphere of good works. Here we have one of the Divine safeguards against the abuse of the doctrine of salvation by grace. When men hear of salvation irrespective of works, they are apt to fancy that works are of little use, and do not need to be carefully attended to. On the contrary, they are part of the Divine decree, and if we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to believe that we have been saved by grace.
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Verses 11-22. - CONTRAST BETWEEN PAST AND THE PRESENT. Verse 11. - Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh. The practical tenor of the apostle's teaching is indicated by his "wherefores." He is always gathering up his views into some lesson. They are to "remember" the change between the past and the present - what they were by nature, and what they had become by grace. This is most useful to all, even though the contrast between the two be not so vivid as in the case of Paul and the Ephesians. The contrast is indicated in various particulars, both of outward condition and of inward privilege and character. First, the old condition. They were "Gentiles in respect of the flesh" - not bearing on their bodies the mark of the Israel of God, therefore not marked out for blessing, not apparently near it. Who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands. Nicknamed, as it were, Uncircumcision by those who in a fleshly or mechanical, but not always in the true spiritual sense (comp. Romans 2:28, 29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11), were called Circumcision; they had a name which denoted the very opposite of that given to God's people - another illustration of their apparent distance from blessing; they revolved round the sun, as it were, not in the nearer orbits of planets warmed, brightened, and beautified by the solar beams, but in the outermost ring of all - like the cold, dark orbit of Uranus or Neptune, which the sunbeams hardly reach to lighten or to warm.
That at that time ye 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:
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.
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Verse 13. - But now; antithesis to ποτὲ in ver. 11, and τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ in ver. 12. Another of the very powerful "buts" of this Epistle, completely reversing the picture going before (see ver. 4). In Christ Jesus. This expression is the pivot of the Epistle, denoting, not only that Christ Jesus is the Source of blessing, but also that we get the blessing, i.e. by vital union and fellowship with, him. The "without Christ" of ver. 12 contrasts powerfully with "in Christ Jesus" of this verse; and the addition of "Jesus" to the name is significant, denoting his saving power, denoting One who is not merely an official Savior, but to whom we get linked by all manner of endearing qualities and personal attractions, whose human name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins. Ye that once were far off are become near. The apostle has slidden into a new figure; formerly the contrast was between death and life, now it is between distance and nearness. Not merely geographical distance, or remoteness in respect of outward position, but moral distance too: ye were far off from God, i.e. from his favor, his fellowship, his gracious pardoning and renewing grace. In this sense too ye are now brought near. God is become your God and Father. Your orbit is changed to a near and blessed position, where the light of God's countenance falls upon you. In the blood of Christ. This is the particular instrument of the change; not merely Christ manifesting the Father's readiness to receive you, but shedding his blood to make atonement for you (see Ephesians 1:7). The preposition ἐν (not merely διὰ) is again significant, denoting more than the instrumentality, viz. personal connection with the blood, as if sprinkled on us, so that we are symbolically in it. Cleansing us from all sin, it brings us nigh.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Verse 14. - For he is our peace. Explanatory of the preceding verse - of the way by which we are brought nigh. Christ is not only our Peacemaker, but our Peace, and that in the fullest sense, the very substance and living spring of it, establishing it at the beginning, keeping it up to the end; and the complex notion of peace is here not only peace between Jew and Gentile, but between God and both. Consult Old Testament predictions of peace in connection with Messiah (Isaiah 9:5, 6; Micah 5:5; Zechariah 9:10, etc.). Who made both one; literally, both things, both elements; so that there is now no ground for separating between a Jewish element and a Gentile; they are unified. And broke down the middle wall of the partition. The general idea is obvious; the particular allusion is less easily seen. Some think it is to the veil that separated the holy of holies from the holy place (Hebrews 10:20); but that could hardly be called a wall. Others the wall that separated the court of the Jew from that of the Gentiles; but that wall was literally standing when the apostle wrote, and besides, the Ephesians could not be supposed to be so familiar with it as to make it a suitable illustration for them. In the absence of any specific allusion, it is best to understand the words generally, "broke down that which served as a middle wall of partition" - what is mentioned immediately in the following verse.
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Verse 15. - (To wit, the enmity.) It is a moot point whether τὴν ἔχθραν is to be taken as governed by λύσας in ver. 14, or by καταργήσας in the end of this verse. Both A.V. and R.V. adopt the latter; but the former is more textual and natural. Another question is - What enmity? Some say between Jews and Gentiles; others, between both and God. The latter seems right; where "the enmity" is so emphatically referred to, it must be the great or fundamental enmity, and the whole tenor of the passage is to the effect that in the removal of the enmity of the sinner to God, the abolition of the enmity between Jew and Gentile was provided for. In his flesh. These words are not to be connected with the enmity, for then they would require τὴν before them, but with λύσας (ver. 14) or καταργήσας (ver. 15). In his flesh, crucified, broken, for our sins, Christ virtually broke down the enmity (comp. Colossians 1:22). Having abolished the law of commandments in ordinances. Some think that "in ordinances" (ἐν δόγμασι, doctrines) denotes the means by which the Law was abolished - by means of doctrines, i.e. the doctrines of Christianity. But New Testament δόγμα is not equal to "doctrine." "In ordinances" limits the law of commandments. The law abolished or superseded by Christ was the law of positive requirements embodied in things decreed, evidently the ceremonial law of the Jews; certainly not the moral law (see Romans 3:31). By removing this, Jesus removed that which had become the occasion of bitter feelings between Jew and Gentile; the Jew looking down proudly on the Gentile, and the Gentile despising what he deemed the fantastic rites of the Jews. That he might create the two in himself into one new man. The idea of a corporate body comes here into view. Christ's object was not merely to restore individuals, but to rear a Church, composed of many units incorporated into one body. This idea is prominent in the rest of the Epistle. Hence the strong word κτισῃ, create; not only is every believer a new creation, but the corporate organization into which they are built is also a creation. The two are made "one new man;" the Gentile is not turned into a Jew, nor the Jew into a Gentile, but both into one new man, thus removing all grounds of jealousy. This transformation is "in himself;" in vital union to Christ they are formed into one body. No Church connection of man with man is the true connection, unless it is founded on a mutual connection with Christ. So making peace; that is, between Jew and Gentile. The peacemaking with God, as we have seen, is referred to in the first words of the verse; this at the end is the subordinate peacemaking, the result of the other.
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
Verse 16. - And that he might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross. Exegetical of preceding statements, and making emphatic the fact of reconciliation to God on the same footing and by the same means; both were to be reconciled in, one body (see Ephesians 4:4) and by the cross. No preference was to be given to the Jew facilitating his union to Christ: the Gentile was to be taken into Christ's body as readily as the Jew. In reference to the sense in which reconciliation was effected by the cross of Jesus, some say it was only as the cross demonstrated to men the love of God and his willingness to bless them; while others maintain very strongly that it was as providing a satisfaction to God's justice for their guilt, and thus enabling him to receive and bless the sinner. Not only the analogy of other passages of Scripture as well as of this Epistle justifies the latter view, but preeminently the words, "by the cross." If Christ had only to proclaim God's friendship toward sinners, why should he have suffered on the cross? The cross as a mere pulpit is hideous; as an altar it is glorious. The love of God is ill revealed, if it subjected Jesus to unnecessary agony. The love of both Father and Son is indeed commended, if the agony was voluntarily borne by the Son, and permitted by the Father, as being indispensable for the pardon of the sinner. 'Αποκαταλλάξῃ denotes the whole process of reconciliation (see Eadie). Having slain the enmity thereby (or, thereon). "The enmity" is the same as at the beginning of ver. 15 - the enmity of man to God. The destruction of this enmity is one of the effects of the cross, though not the only effect; it is necessary to root out the enmity of the carnal mind. That this is the meaning here seems plain from Romans 5:10, "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." The apostle there makes no allusion to the enmity of Jew and Gentile to each other, but to this wider fact - τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς ἔχθρα εἰς Θεόν. If any words can denote the result of a propitiatory sacrifice, it is surely "reconciled to God by the death of his Son."
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Verse 17. - And having come, he preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to these that were nigh. The coming denoted by ἐλθὼν is subsequent to the transactions of the cross. It cannot denote what Christ did personally, but what he did by sending his Spirit to the apostles and other early preachers. It was only after the cross and after the resurrection that peace could be proclaimed on the footing of faith in a Savior who had died and was alive. And only in the sense of having sent his preachers and given them his Spirit could Jesus be said to have preached to the Ephesians. The repetition of the word "peace" in the R.V. is expressive; if the subject had been merely peace between the two classes of men, we should not have had the repetition; the repetition denotes peace between each of the two classes and a third party, viz. God. It is remarkable that the Gentiles, "those that were far off," are mentioned here before the Jews, "those that were nigh." In point of chronology, the Jews came first; but the order is here transposed, probably to emphasize the offer of the gospel to the Gentiles, and to show that spiritually they were as near as the Jews.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Verse 18. - For through him both of us have our access by one Spirit unto the Father. Further illustration of identity of position of Jews and Gentiles, and of the work of Christ in bringing it about. Subject of this verse, access to the Father; predicate, this access effected through Christ by the one Spirit. Our having access to the Father is assumed as a matter of spiritual experience; the converted Ephesians knew that in their prayers and other exercises they did really stand before God, and felt as children to a Father. How came this to pass? "Through him." Sinful men have not this privilege by nature; "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God" (Isaiah 59:2). They need a Mediator; Jesus is that Mediator; and through him, both Jews and Gentiles enjoy the privilege. But right of access is not enough; in approaching God and holding fellowship with him there must be some congeniality of soul, a fellow-feeling between God and the worshipper; this is effected through the same Spirit. Some render "in the same spirit, or disposition of mind." This is true, but not all the truth; for the question arises - How do we get this suitable disposition? And the answer is - It is wrought by the Holy Spirit. As the state of the soul in true intercourse with God is substantially the same in all, so it is brought by the same Holy Spirit. In fact, this verse is one of the characteristic texts of Ephesians, in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are brought together.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Verse 19. - So then ye are no more strangers and foreigners. "Sojourners" is nearer πάροικοι than "foreigners;" it denotes persons dwelling in a place, but without citizen rights and privileges; but as such persons are usually foreigners, it is immaterial which term is used. But ye are fellow-citizens with the saints. The saints are the chosen ones of all time (comp. Hebrews 12:22, "But ye are come unto Mount Zion," etc.). "Their names are engraven on the same civic roll with all whom ' the Lord shall count when be reckoneth up the people." It is as if they who had dwelt in the waste and howling wilderness, scattered defenseless and in melancholy isolation, had been transplanted, not only into Palestine, but had been appointed to domiciles on Mount Zion, and were located in the metropolis, not to admire its architecture, or gaze upon its battlements, or envy the tribes who had come up to worship in the city which is compact together; but to claim its municipal immunities, experience its protection, obey its laws, live and love in its happy society, and hold communion with its glorious Founder and Guardian" (Eadie). And (members) of the household of God. A nearer relation to God and a higher privilege is denoted here. You are not guests or occasional visitors, but permanent dwellers in the house and members of the family. Compare the Queen of Sheba's words to Solomon (1 Kings 10:8).
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Verse 20. - Being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. A new figure, the third here introduced to denote the change - that of a temple, of which Christians are stones. There is no contrast in form in this figure, as in the other two; it just expresses directly the privilege attained. There is a real contrast, however, between the first three and the last three verses of the chapter - the lowest degradation expressed in the one, the highest elevation in the ether. Observe, the apostle passes, by association of ideas, from the household (ver. 19) to the house (ver. 20), from the domestics to the stones; but by a bold figure he gives life to the stones, otherwise we might be in the same region of lifelessness as in yore. 1-3. Two questions arise here.
1. About this foundation - In what sense is it "of the apostles and prophets"? Certainly not in the sense that they constituted the foundation; for, though this might be warranted grammatically, it would be untrue: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). The best meaning seems to be, the foundation which the apostles and prophets laid, which they used for themselves and announced for others. But what was this foundation? Substantially that of 1 Corinthians 3:11; but the mention of Christ as chief Corner-stone at the end of the verse might at first seem to indicate that something different was meant by the foundation. But it is impossible to propose any suitable interpretation which would not make Christ the Foundation too.
2. Who are the prophets? We might naturally suppose the Old Testament prophets, but in that case they would probably have been mentioned before the apostles. In other passages of this Epistle "apostles and prophets" denote New Testament officers (Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11), and it is most suitable to regard that as the meaning. It was the privilege of the Ephesians to use the foundation on which stood the two highest bodies of officers in the new dispensation - the apostles and prophets; nothing better could be found. Jesus Christ himself being the chief Cornerstone. Not as opposed to the foundation, but in addition thereto. Jesus is really both, but there is a reason for specifying him as the chief Cornerstone; comp. Psalm 118:21, "The stone which the builders rejected is become the headstone of the corner;" i.e. the stone which, being placed in the corner, determined the lines of the whole building. The idea of foundation is that of support; the idea of the chief cornerstone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation. Jesus is not only the Origin, Foundation, Support of the Church, but he gives it its shape and form, he determines the place and the office of each stone, he gives life and character to each member.
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Verse 21. - In whom all the building. Not even the figure of a building can keep the apostle from his favorite idea of vital fellowship with Christ as the soul of all Christianity - "in whom." Πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ is rendered in R.V. "each several building." But surely the want of the article does not make imperative a rendering which is out of keeping with the apostle's object, viz. to illustrate the organic unity of believers, Jewish and Gentile, as one great body (comp. Ephesians 4:4, "There is one body"). If there had been many several or separate buildings in the apostle's view, why not a Jewish building and a Gentile building? Or how could the separate buildings have their lines directed by the one chief Cornerstone? In Acts 2:36 πᾶς οϊκος Ισραήλ is not "every house of Israel," but "all the house of Israel." Fitly framed together. There is a jointing and joining of the various parts to each other, forming a symmetrical, compact, well-ordered building. The Church has many members in one body, and all members have not the same office. It is a co-operative body, each aiding in his own way and with his own talent. The Church is not a collection of loose stones and timbers; its members are in vital union with Christ, and ought to be in living and loving and considerate fellowship with each other. Groweth into a holy temple in the Lord. Increase is an essential property of the Church; wherever there is life there is growth. But the growth of the Church is not mere increase of members or size; the growth is towards a temple, of which the character is holy, and it is in the Lord. The world-famed temple of Diana at Ephesus may have been in the apostle's mind - its symmetry, its glory, the relation of each several part to the rest and to the whole, as a suitable external emblem of the spiritual body which is being built up in Christ; but the Christian Church is a holy temple, dedicated to God, purified by his Spirit, entirely foreign to those defilements which disgraced the temple of Diana. The ἐν ω΅ι at the beginning of the verse is followed by ἐν Κυρίῳ at the end, as if the union of the Church to Christ could not be too often brought out. In him we are born into it; in him we grow in it; in him the whole temple grows towards the final consummation, when the topstone shall be brought out with shouts of "Grace, grace unto it."
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Verse 22. - In whom ye also are builded together. Once more the vitalizing element - "in whom;" for this is better than "in which," inasmuch as this verse is substantially a reduplication of the preceding one, making special application of the same subject to the Ephesians. The person changes from the third to the second, to make emphatic that the Ephesians shared this great privilege. Their relations towards believing Jews and other believers in the Church were not accidental; they were "builded together," compacted into each other, and ought to work together towards God's great ends. For a habitation of God in the Spirit. Not many habitations, but one. The Church as a temple is the dwelling-place of God. Here he bestows his fullness, so that when the temple is completed it will exhibit, as fully as a created thing can, the manifold glory of God. "In the Spirit" in this verse corresponds to "in the Lord" in the previous one. The actual communication of Divine properties to finite beings is the work of the Third Person. In this verse, again, we find the three Persons of the Trinity: the temple is the habitation of the First Person; the source of its life and growth and symmetry is the Son; the actual up-building and glorifying of it is by the Spirit. This is the climax of privilege, and no contrast could be greater than that between the death in trespasses and sins with which the chapter begins, and this sublime temple, where God dwells and bestows his fullness, with which it ends.