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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Preface to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians
Ephesus was a city of Ionia, in Asia Minor, and once the metropolis of that part of the world. The ancient city was situated at the mouth of the river Cayster, on the shore of the Aegean Sea, about 50 miles south of Smyrna. The Ephesus in which St. Paul founded a Church, and which for a time flourished gloriously, was not the ancient Ephesus; for that was destroyed, and a new city of the same name was built by Lysimachus.
This most famous of all the Asiatic cities is now a miserable village, composed of mean huts formed out of the ruins of its once magnificent structures; and these huts are now the residence of about forty or fifty Turkish families, without a single Christian among them! For other particulars see the note on Acts 18:19.
It is, however, a doubt with many learned men, whether this epistle was sent to the Church at Ephesus. They think that the proper direction is, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Laodiceans; and suppose it to be the same which the apostle mentions, Colossians 4:16 : "When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Dr. Paley's arguments in the affirmative are entitled to much regard.
"Although it does not appear to have ever been disputed that the epistle before us was written by St. Paul, yet it is well known that a doubt has long been entertained concerning the persons to whom it was addressed. The question is founded partly in some ambiguity in the external evidence. Marcion, a heretic of the second century, as quoted by Tertullian, a father in the beginning of the third, calls it, The Epistle to the Laodiceans. From what we know of Marcion, his judgment is little to be relied upon; nor is it perfectly clear that Marcion was rightly understood by Tertullian. If, however, Marcion be brought to prove that some copies in his time gave εν Λαοδικειᾳ in the superscription, his testimony, if it be truly interpreted, is not diminished by his heresy; for, as Grotius observes, 'cur in ea re mentiretur nihil erat causae.' The name εν Εφεσῳ, in Ephesus, in the first verse, upon which word singly depends the proof that the epistle was written to the Ephesians, is not read in all the manuscripts now extant. I admit, however, that the external evidence preponderates with a manifest excess on the side of the received reading. The objection therefore principally arises from the contents of the epistle itself, which, in many respects militate with the supposition that it was written to the Church of Ephesus. According to the history, St. Paul had passed two whole years at Ephesus, Acts 19:10. And in this point, viz. of St. Paul having preached for a considerable length of time at Ephesus, the history is confirmed by the two epistles to the Corinthians, and by the two epistles to Timothy: 'I will tarry at Ephesus until pentecost;' 1 Corinthians 16:8. 'We would not have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia;' 2 Corinthians 1:8. 'As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia;' 1 Timothy 1:3. 'And in how many things he ministered to me at Ephesus thou knowest well;' 2 Timothy 1:18. I adduce these testimonies because, had it been a competition of credit between the history and the epistle, I should have thought myself bound to have preferred the epistle. Now, every epistle which St. Paul wrote to Churches which he himself had founded, or which he had visited, abounds with references and appeals to what had passed during the time that he was present amongst them; whereas there is not a text in the Epistle to the Ephesians from which we can collect that he had ever been at Ephesus at all. The two epistles to the Corinthians, the Epistle to the Galatians, the Epistle to the Philippians, and the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, are of this class; and they are full of allusions to the apostle's history, his reception, and his conduct whilst amongst them; the total want of which in the epistle before us is very difficult to account for, if it was in truth written to the Church of Ephesus, in which city he had resided for so long a time. This is the first and strongest objection. But farther, the Epistle to the Colossians was addressed to a Church in which St. Paul had never been, This we infer from the first verse of the second chapter: 'For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.' There could be no propriety in thus joining the Colossians and Laodiceans with those 'who had not seen his face in the flesh,' if they did not also belong to the same description. Now, his address to the Colossians, whom he had not visited, is precisely the same as his address to the Christians to whom he wrote in the epistle which we are now considering: 'We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints;' Colossians 1:3. Thus he speaks to the Christians, in the epistle before us, as follows: 'Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you in my prayers; Ephesians 1:15. The terms of this address are observable. The words, 'having heard of your faith and love,' are the very words, we see, which he uses towards strangers; and it is not probable that he should employ the same in accosting a Church in which he had long exercised his ministry, and whose 'faith and love' he must have personally known. The Epistle to the Romans was written before St. Paul had been at Rome; and his address to them runs in the same strain with that just now quoted: 'I thank my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world;' Romans 1:8. Let us now see what was the form in which our apostle was accustomed to introduce his epistles, when he wrote to those with whom he was already acquainted. To the Corinthians it was this: 'I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Christ Jesus;' 1 Corinthians 1:4. To the Philippians: 'I thank my God upon every remembrance of you;' Philippians 1:3. To the Thessalonians: 'We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love;' 1 Thessalonians 1:3. To Timothy: 'I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;' 2 Timothy 1:3. In these quotations it is usually his remembrance, and never his hearing of them, which he makes the subject of his thankfulness to God.
As great difficulties stand in the way, supposing the epistle before us to have been written to the Church of Ephesus; so I think it probable that it is actually the epistle to the Laodiceans, referred to in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians. The text which contains that reference is this: 'When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea;' Colossians 4:16. The epistle from Laodicea was an epistle sent by St. Paul to that Church, and by them transmitted to Colosse. The two Churches were mutually to communicate the epistles they had received. This is the way in which the direction is explained by the greater part of commentators, and is the most probable sense that can be given to it. It is also probable that the epistle alluded to was an epistle which had been received by the Church of Laodicea lately. It appears, then, with a considerable degree of evidence, that there existed an epistle of St. Paul nearly of the same date with the Epistle to the Colossians, and an epistle directed to a Church (for such the Church of Laodicea was) in which St. Paul had never been. What has been observed concerning the epistle before us, shows that it answers perfectly to that character.
"Nor does the mistake seem very difficult to account for. Whoever inspects the map of Asia Minor will see, that a person proceeding from Rome to Laodicea would probably land at Ephesus, as the nearest frequented seaport in that direction. Might not Tychicus, then, in passing through Ephesus, communicate to the Christians of that place the letter with which he was charged? And might not copies of that letter be multiplied and preserved at Ephesus? Might not some of the copies drop the words of designation εν τῃ Λαοδικειᾳ, which it was of no consequence to an Ephesian to retain? Might not copies of the letter come out into the Christian Church at large from Ephesus; and might not this give occasion to a belief that the letter was written to that Church? And, lastly, might not this belief produce the error which we suppose to have crept into the inscription?
"And it is remarkable that there seem to have been some ancient copies without the words of designation, either the words in Ephesus, or the words in Laodicea. St. Basil, a writer of the fourth century, speaking of the present epistle, has this very singular passage: 'And writing to the Ephesians, as truly united to him who is through knowledge, he (Paul) calleth them in a peculiar sense such who are; saying, to the saints who are and (or even) the faithful in Christ Jesus; for so those before us have transmitted it, and we have found it in ancient copies.' Dr. Mill interprets (and, notwithstanding some objections that have been made to him, in my opinion, rightly interprets) these words of Basil, as declaring that this father had seen certain copies of the epistle in which the words 'in Ephesus' were wanting. And the passage, I think, must be considered as Basil's fanciful way of explaining what was really a corrupt and defective reading; for I do not believe it possible that the author of the epistle could have originally written ἁγιοις τοις ουσιν, without any name of place to follow it."
It must be allowed that the arguments of Dr. Paley, the sum of which may be found in Wetstein, that this is the epistle to the Laodiceans, are both plausible and strong; and yet almost the whole of antiquity, with the exceptions which those learned men mention, is in favor of the epistle being sent originally to the Church at Ephesus. Puzzled with these two considerations, some critics have pointed out a middle way. They suppose that several copies of this epistle were directed to no particular Church, but were intended for all the Churches in Asia Minor; and that different copies might have different directions, from this circumstance, that St. Paul, in writing the first verse Παυλος αποστολος Ιησου Χριστου - τοις ἁγιοις τοις ουσιν, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the saints which are, left a blank after ουσιν, are, which was in some cases filled up with εν Εφεσῳ, in Ephesus; in others, with εν Λαοδικειᾳ, in Laodicea; though there might be one copy expressly sent by him to the Church of the Laodiceans, while he wished that others should be directed to the different Churches through Asia Minor. That there were copies which had no place specified, we learn from St. Basil; and the arguments in favor of Laodicea are certainly the strongest; the circumstance, that the apostle salutes no person, agrees well with Laodicea, where he had never been, Colossians 2:1; but cannot agree with Ephesus, where he was well known, and where, in preaching the Gospel, he had spent three years. See Acts 20:31.
As this point is very dubious, and men of great abilities and learning have espoused different sides of the question, I judge myself incompetent to determine any thing; but I felt it my duty to bring the arguments for Laodicea fairly before the reader; those in favor of Ephesus may be met with every where. The passages in the body of the epistle, alleged by critics who espouse opposite sides of this subject, I have seldom noticed in a controversial way; and the notes on those passages are constructed as though no controversy existed.
Many expositors, and particularly Drs. Chandler and Macknight, have thought that they have perceived a great number of references to the temple of Diana at Ephesus; to the sacred mysteries among the Greeks; to the Hierophants, Mystagogues, Neocoroi, etc., in the temple of the celebrated goddess. It may appear strange that, with these opinions before me, I have not referred to the same things; nor adduced them by way of illustration; the truth is, I have not been able to discover them, nor do I believe that any such allusions exist. I see many allusions to the temple of God at Jerusalem, but none to the temple of Diana at Ephesus. I find also many references to the sacred service and sacerdotal officers in the Jewish temple; but none to Mystagogues, etc., among the heathens. I find much said about, what is to be understood most literally, the mystery which had been hidden from all ages, viz. of uniting Jews and Gentiles in one Church, but no reference to the Eleusinian, Bacchic, or other mysteries in the abominable worship of the Greeks, was suggesting to the mind of the apostle any parallel between their mysteries and those of the Almighty. My reasons for my dissent from these respectable authorities I have given in the notes.
June 20th, 1815.
The apostle's salutation to the Church, Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2. He blesses God for calling the Gentiles to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, by whose sacrificial death both they and the Jews find redemption, Ephesians 1:3-7. He shows that it was through the great abundance of God's wisdom and goodness that the Gentiles were called into a state of salvation, and that they should receive the Holy Spirit as the earnest of their inheritance, Ephesians 1:8-15. He praises God for their conversion, and prays that they may be farther enlightened, that they may see the glory of Christ, and partake of the blessings procured by his passion and exaltation, Ephesians 1:16-23.
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
To the saints which are at Ephesus - As some learned men think that this epistle was written to the Church of the Laodiceans, and that the words εν Εφεσῳ, in Ephesus, were not originally in this epistle, the consideration of the subject has appeared to be more proper for the preface; and to that the reader is referred for a particular discussion of this opinion. By the term saints we are to understand those who in that place professed Christianity, and were members of the Christian Church. Saint properly signifies a holy person, and such the Gospel of Christ requires every man to be, and such every true believer is, both in heart and life; but saint appears to have been as ordinary a denomination of a believer in Christ in those primitive times, as the term Christian is now. Yet many had the name who had not the thing.
The faithful in Christ Jesus - Πιστοις· the believers - the persons who received Christ as the promised Messiah, and the Savior of the world, and continued in the grace which they had received.
2Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace be to you - See the note on Romans 1:7.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Blessed be the God - See the note on 2 Corinthians 1:3, where the same form is used.
With all spiritual blessings - With the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and the abundant gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, justifying, sanctifying, and building us up on our most holy faith.
In heavenly places - Εν τοις επουρανιοις· In heavenly things, such as those mentioned above; they were not yet in heavenly places, but they had abundance of heavenly things to prepare them for heavenly places. Some think the word should be understood as signifying blessings of the most exalted or excellent kind, such as are spiritual in opposition to those that are earthly, such as are eternal in opposition to those that are temporal; and all these in, through and by Christ. We have already seen, on Galatians 4:26, that the heavenly Jerusalem, or Jerusalem which is from above, is used by the Jews to signify the days of the Messiah, and that state of grace and glory which should follow the Levitical worship and ceremonies; and it is possible that St. Paul may use the word επουρανια, heavenly things, in this sense: God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things, or in this heavenly state, in which life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel. This is apparently the preferable sense.
4According 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:
According as he hath chosen us in him - As he has decreed from the beginning of the world, and has kept in view from the commencement of the religious system of the Jews, (which the phrase sometimes means), to bring us Gentiles to the knowledge of this glorious state of salvation by Christ Jesus. The Jews considered themselves an elect or chosen people, and wished to monopolize the whole of the Divine love and beneficence. The apostle here shows that God had the Gentiles as much in the contemplation of his mercy and goodness as he had the Jews; and the blessings of the Gospel, now so freely dispensed to them, were the proof that God had thus chosen them, and that his end in giving them the Gospel was the same which he had in view by giving the law to the Jews, viz. that they might be holy and without blame before him. And as his object was the same in respect to them both, they should consider that, as he loved them, so they should love one another: God having provided for each the same blessings, they should therefore be ἁγιους, holy - fully separated from earth and sin, and consecrated to God and αμωμους, without blame - having no spot nor imperfection, their inward holiness agreeing with their outward consecration. The words are a metaphor taken from the perfect and immaculate sacrifices which the law required the people to bring to the altar of God. But as love is the fulfilling of the law, and love the fountain whence their salvation flowed, therefore love must fill their hearts towards God and each other, and love must be the motive and end of all their words and works.
5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Having predestinated us - Προορισας. As the doctrine of eternal predestination has produced much controversy in the Christian world, it may be necessary to examine the meaning of the term, that those who do use it may employ it according to the sense it has in the oracles of God. The verb προοριζω, from προ, before, and ὁριζω, I define, finish, bound, or terminate, whence ὁρος, a boundary or limit, signifies to define beforehand, and circumscribe by certain bounds or limits; and is originally a geographical term, but applied also to any thing concluded, or determined, or demonstrated. Here the word is used to point out God's fixed purpose or predetermination to bestow on the Gentiles the blessing of the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ, which adoption had been before granted to the Jewish people; and without circumcision, or any other Mosaic rite, to admit the Gentiles to all the privileges of his Church and people. And the apostle marks that all this was fore-determined by God, as he had fore-determined the bounds and precincts of the land which he gave them according to the promise made to their fathers; that the Jews had no reason to complain, for God had formed this purpose before he had given the law, or called them out of Egypt; (for it was before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4); and that, therefore, the conduct of God in calling the Gentiles now - bringing them into his Church, and conferring on them the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, was in pursuance of his original design; and, if he did not do so, his eternal purposes could not be fulfilled; and that, as the Jews were taken to be his peculiar people, not because they had any goodness or merit in themselves; so the Gentiles were called, not for any merit they had, but according to the good pleasure of his will; that is, according to his eternal benevolence, showing mercy and conferring privileges in this new creation, as he had done in the original creation; for as, in creating man, he drew every consideration from his own innate eternal benevolence, so now, in redeeming man, and sending the glad tidings of salvation both to the Jews and the Gentiles, be acted on the same principles, deriving all the reasons of his conduct from his own infinite goodness.
This argument was exceedingly conclusive, and must silence the Jews on the ground of their original, primitive, and exclusive rights, which they were ever ready to plead against all pretensions of the Gentiles. If therefore God, before the foundation of the Jewish economy, had determined that the Gentiles, in the fullness of time, should be called to and admitted into all the privileges of the Messiah's kingdom, then the exclusive salvation of the Jews was chimerical; and what God was doing now, by the preaching of the apostles in the Gentile world, was in pursuance of his original design. This same argument St. Paul repeatedly produces in his Epistle to the Romans; and a proper consideration of it unlocks many difficulties in that epistle. See the notes on Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30 (note); and elsewhere, in the course of that epistle, where this subject is handled. But why is the word προορισας, fore-determined, limited, or circumscribed, used here? Merely in reference to the settlement of the Israelites in the promised land. God assigned to them the portions which they were to inherit; and these portions were described, and their bearings, boundaries, vicinities to other portions, extent and length, as exactly ascertained as they could be by the most correct geographical map. As God, therefore, had dealt with the Jews in making them his peculiar people, and when he divided the earth among the sons of Noah reserved to himself the twelve portions which he afterwards gave to the twelve tribes; (see on Deuteronomy 32:8 (note)); and as his dealings with them were typical of what he intended to do in the calling and salvation of the Gentiles; so he uses the terms by which their allotment and settlement were pointed out to show that, what he had thus designed and typified, he had now fulfilled according to the original predetermination; the Gentiles having now the spiritual inheritance which God had pointed out by the grant made of the promised land to the children of Israel. This is the grand key by which this predestination business is unlocked. See on Ephesians 1:11 (note).
6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
To the praise of the glory of his grace - Δοξης της χαριτος αὑτου· The glory of his grace, for χαρις ενδοξος, his glorious or illustrious grace, according to the Hebrew idiom. But the grace or mercy of God is peculiarly illustrated and glorified in the plan of redemption by Christ Jesus. By the giving of the Law, God's justice and holiness were rendered most glorious; by the giving of the Gospel, his grace and mercy are made equally conspicuous.
Wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved - This translation of εν ᾑ εχαριτωσεν ἡμας εν τῳ Ηγαπημενῳ is not clear; with which he has graciously favored us through the Beloved, is at once more literal and more intelligible. Whitby, Macknight, and Wakefield translate the passage in nearly the same way.
In the Beloved must certainly mean in Christ, who is termed God's beloved Son, Matthew 3:17; but several excellent MSS., such as D*EFG, the later Syriac, the Ethiopic, Vulgate, Itala, with several of the fathers, add, υιῳ αυτου, his beloved Son. This is the meaning, whether the reading be received or rejected.
7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
In whom we have redemption - God has glorified his grace by giving us redemption by the blood of his Son, and this redemption consists in forgiving and delivering us from our sins; so then Christ's blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence, so it was manifested in beneficence to mankind, in their redemption by the sacrifice of Christ, the measure of redeeming grace being the measure of God's own eternal goodness.
It may not be useless to remark that, instead of της χαριτος αυτου, his grace, the Codex Alexandrinus and the Coptic version have της χρηστοτητος, his goodness.
8Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Wherein he hath abounded - That is, in the dispensation of mercy and goodness by Christ Jesus.
In all wisdom and prudence - Giving us apostles the most complete instructions in heavenly things by the inspiration of his Spirit; and at the same time prudence, that we might know when and where to preach the Gospel so that it might be effectual to the salvation of those who heard it. Nothing less than the Spirit of God could teach the apostles that wisdom by which they were to instruct a dark and sinful world; and nothing less than the same Spirit could inspire them with that prudence which was necessary to be exercised in every step of their life and ministry. Every wise man is not a prudent man, and every prudent man is not a wise man. Wisdom and prudence may be expected in an apostle who is constantly living under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. "Wisdom," according to Sir William Temple, "is that which makes men judge what are the best ends, and what the best means to attain them; and gives a man advantage of counsel and direction." "Prudence is wisdom applied to practice; or that discreet, apt suiting as well of actions as words, in their due place, time, and manner. Every minister of Christ needs these still; and if he abide not under the influence of both, not only his prayers but his ministerial labors will be all hindered.
9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Having made known unto us the mystery - That the Gentiles should ever be received into the Church of God, and have all the privileges of the Jews, without being obliged to submit to circumcision, and perform the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law was a mystery - a hidden thing which had never been published before; and now revealed only to the apostles. It was God's will that it should be so, but that will he kept hidden to the present time. A mystery signifies something hidden, but it ceases to be a mystery as soon as it is revealed. See the note on Matthew 13:11; and particularly that on Romans 11:25 (note).
Good pleasure - Την ευδοκιαν· That benevolent design which he had purposed in himself, not being induced by any consideration from without.
10That 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:
In the dispensation of the fullness of times - Εις οικονομιαν του πληρωματος των καιρων. The word οικονομια, which is the same as our word economy, signifies, as Dr. Macknight has well observed, "the plan which the master of a family, or his steward, has established for the management of the family;" it signifies, also, a plan for the management of any sort of business: and here it means the dispensation of the Gospel, that plan by which God has provided salvation for a lost world; and according to which he intends to gather all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, into one Church under Jesus Christ, their head and governor. See the note on Matthew 24:45, where the word and the office are particularly explained.
The fullness of times - By this phrase we are to understand either the Gospel dispensation, which is the consummation of all preceding dispensations, and the last that shall be afforded to man; or that advanced state of the world which God saw to be the most proper for the full manifestation of those benevolent purposes which he had formed in himself relative to the salvation of the world by Jesus Christ.
That he might gather together in one - Ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι, from ανα, again, and κεφαλαιοω, to reduce to one sum; to add up; to bring different sums together, and fractions of sums, so as to reduce them under one denomination; to recapitulate the principal matters contained in a discourse. Here it means the gathering together both Jews and Gentiles, who have believed in Christ, into one Church and flock. See the preceding note.
All things - which are in heaven, and which are on earth - This clause is variously understood: some think, by things in heaven the Jewish state is meant and by things on earth the Christian. The Jews had been long considered a Divine or heavenly people; their doctrine, their government, their constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical, were all Divine or heavenly: as the powers of the heavens, Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:26, mean the Jewish rulers in Church and state, it is very possible that the things which are in heaven mean this same state; and as the Gentiles were considered to have nothing Divine or heavenly among them, they may be here intended by the earth, out of the corruption of which they are to be gathered by the preaching of the Gospel. But there are others who imagine that the things in heaven mean the angelical hosts; and the things on earth believers of all nations, who shall all be joined together at last in one assembly to worship God throughout eternity. And some think that the things in heaven mean the saints who died before Christ's advent, and who are not to be made perfect till the resurrection, when the full power and efficacy of Christ shall be seen in raising the bodies of believers and uniting them with their holy souls, to reign in his presence for ever. And some think that, as the Hebrew phrase שמים והארץ shamayim vehaarets, the heavens and the earth, signifies all creatures, the words in the text are to be understood as signifying all mankind, without discrimination of peoples, kindreds, or tongues; Jews, Greeks, or barbarians. All that are saved of all nations, (being saved in the same way, viz. by faith in Christ Jesus, without any distinction of nation or previous condition), and all gathered into one Church or assembly.
I believe that the forming one Church out of both Jews and Gentiles is that to which the apostle refers. This agrees with what is said, Ephesians 2:14-17.
11In 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:
In whom - Christ Jesus; also we - believing Jews have obtained an inheritance - what was promised to Abraham and his spiritual seed, viz. the adoption of sons, and the kingdom of heaven, signified by the privileges under the Mosaic dispensation, and the possession of the promised land, but all these privileges being forfeited by the rebellion and unbelief of the Jews, they are now about to be finally cut off, and the believing part to be re-elected, and put in possession of the blessings promised to Abraham and his spiritual seed, by faith; for without a re-election, they cannot get possession of these spiritual privileges.
Being predestinated - God having determined to bring both Jews and Gentiles to salvation, not by works, nor by any human means or schemes, but by Jesus Christ; that salvation being defined and determined before in the Divine mind, and the means by which it should be brought about all being according to his purpose, who consults not his creatures, but operates according to the counsel of his own will, that being ever wise, gracious, and good.
The original reference is still kept up here in the word προορισθεντες, being predestinated, as in the word προορισας Ephesians 1:5. And as the apostle speaks of obtaining the inheritance, he most evidently refers to that of which the promised land was the type and pledge. And as that land was assigned to the Israelites by limit and lot, both of which were appointed by God so the salvation now sent to the Gentiles was as expressly their lot or portion, as the promised land was that of the people of Israel. All this shows that the Israelites were a typical people; their land, the manner of possessing it, their civil and religious code, etc., etc., all typical; and that in, by, and through them, God had fore-determined, fore-described, and fore-ascertained a greater and more glorious people, among whom the deepest counsels of his wisdom should be manifested, and the most powerful works of his eternal mercy, grace, holiness, goodness, and truth, be fully exhibited. Thus there was nothing fortuitous in the Christian scheme; all was the result of infinite counsel and design. See on Ephesians 1:5 (note).
12That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
That we - Jews, now apostles and messengers of God, to whom the first offers of salvation were made, and who were the first that believed in Christ.
Should be to the praise of his glory - By being the means of preaching Christ crucified to the Gentiles, and spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
13In 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,
In whom ye also trusted - Ye Gentiles, having heard from us the word, τον λογον, the doctrine, of the truth, which is the Gospel, or glad tidings, of your salvation, have believed, as we Jews have done, and received similar blessings to those with which God has favored us.
In whom also, εν ὡ, through whom, Christ Jesus, after that ye had believed, viz. that he was the only Savior, and that through his blood redemption might be obtained, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise; that is, The Holy Spirit, which is promised to them who believe on Christ Jesus, was given to you, and thus you were ascertained to be the children of God, for God has no child who is not a partaker of the Holy Ghost, and he who has this Spirit has God's seal that he belongs to the heavenly family. It was customary among all nations, when a person purchased goods of any kind, to mark with his seal that which he had bought, in order that he might know it, and be able to claim it if mixed with the goods of others; to this custom the apostle may here allude but it was also customary to set a seal upon what was dedicated to God, or what was to be offered to him in sacrifice. See this proved in the note on John 6:27. The Jews themselves speak of the seal of God, which they term אמת emeth, truth, and which they consider as a representation of the unoriginated and endless perfections of God. As the apostle is here speaking of the doctrine of truth, which came by the Holy Spirit, and is sealed on the souls of believers by this Spirit, he may have in view the Jewish notion, which is at once both correct and elevated. This Spirit of truth, John 14:17, who leads into all truth, John 16:13, and teaches all things, John 14:26, makes the impression of his own eternal purity and truth in the souls of them who believe, and thus they bear the seal of God Almighty. And they who in the day of judgment are found to bear this seal - Truth; truth in the inward parts, having truly repented, truly believed, and having been in consequence truly justified, and truly sanctified; and having walked in truth and sincerity towards God and man; these are sealed to the day of redemption; for, having this seal, they are seen to have a right to eternal life.
14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Which is the earnest of our inheritance - This Holy Spirit, sealing the soul with truth and righteousness, is the earnest, foretaste, and pledge of the heavenly inheritance. And he who can produce this earnest - this witness of the Spirit, in the day of judgment, shall have an abundant entrance into the holiest. On the αρῥαβων, or earnest, see the notes on Genesis 38:17 (note), etc., and on 2 Corinthians 1:22 (note).
The redemption of the purchased possession - That is, till the time when body and soul are redeemed from all their miseries, and glorified in the kingdom on heaven.
The redemption of the purchased possession - Απολυτρωσις της περιποιησεως is variously understood; and indeed the original is variously translated. Dr. Whitby has observed that the verb πεειποιειν signifies to save alive; and he refers the περιποιησις, here, to the redemption of the body from corruption, and to its final glorification with the soul.
All those who believe in Christ Jesus are considered as his peculiar people and property, and to them eternal glory is promised. The Spirit of promise, which is given them, is a pledge that they shall have a resurrection from the dead, and eternal blessedness; the redemption, or bringing to life of the body, cannot take place till the day of judgment, but the Holy Spirit promises this redemption, and is now in their hearts an earnest or pledge of this complete restoration at the great day, which will then be, in an especial manner, to the praise of his glory, viz. of Christ, who has bought them by his blood.
15Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Faith in the Lord Jesus - Cordial reception of the Christian religion, amply proved by their love to all the saints - to all the Christians. Perhaps love here implies, not only the kind affection so called, but also all the fruits of love - benevolence, and kind offices of every description.
16Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
Cease not to give thanks - The apostle intimates, so fully satisfied was he of the genuineness of their conversion, and of their steadiness since their conversion, that it was to him a continual cause of thanksgiving to God, who had brought them into that state of salvation; and of prayer, that they might be preserved blameless to the end.
Making mention of you - While praying for the prosperity of the Christian cause generally, he was led, from his particular affection for them, to mention them by name before God.
17That 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:
That the God of our Lord Jesus - Jesus Christ, as man and mediator, has the Father for his God and Father: and it is in reference to this that he himself says: I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God; John 20:17.
The Father of glory - The author and giver of that glory which you expect at the end of your Christian race. This may be a Hebraism for glorious Father, but the former appears to be the best sense.
The Spirit of wisdom and revelation - I pray that God may give you his Holy Spirit, by whom his will is revealed to men, that he may teach and make you wise unto salvation, that you may continue to acknowledge him, Christ Jesus, as your only Lord and Savior.
18The 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,
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened - The understanding is that power or faculty in the soul by which knowledge or information is received, and the recipient power is here termed the Eyes of the understanding; and we learn from this that ὁπερ ὁ οφθαλμος εν τῳ σωματι, τουτο ὁ νους εν τῃ ψυχη, as Philo expresses it: What the eye is to the body, the understanding is to the soul; and that as the eye is not light in itself, and can discern nothing but by the means of light shining, not only on the objects to be viewed, but into the eye itself; so the understanding of man can discern no sacred thing of or by itself, but sees by the influence of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; for without the influence of God's Holy Spirit no man ever became wise unto salvation, no more than a man ever discerned an object, (no matter how perfect soever his eye might have been), without the instrumentality of light.
Instead of της διανοιας, of your understanding, της καρδιας, of your heart, is the reading of ABDEFG, and several others; also both the Syriac, all the Arabic, the Coptic, the Ethiopic, Armenian, Sahidic, Slavonian, Vulgate, and Itala, besides several of the fathers. The eyes of your Heart is undoubtedly the true reading.
The hope of his calling - That you may clearly discern the glorious and important objects of your hope, to the enjoyment of which God has called or invited you.
The riches of the glory of his inheritance - That you may understand what is the glorious abundance of the spiritual things to which you are entitled, in consequence of being made children of God; for if children, then heirs, heirs of that glorious inheritance which God has provided for the saints - for all genuine Christians, whether formerly Jews or Gentiles. On the chief subject of this verse, see the notes on Galatians 4:6, Galatians 4:7 (note).
19And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
The exceeding greatness of his power - As the apostle is here speaking of the glorious state of believers after death, the exceeding greatness of his power, or that power which surpasses all difficulties, being itself omnipotent, is to be understood of that might which is to be exerted in raising the body at the last day; as it will require the same power or energy which he wrought in Christ, when he raised his body from the grave, to raise up the bodies of all mankind; the resurrection of the human nature of Christ being a proof of the resurrection of mankind in general.
According to the working of his mighty power - Κατα την ενεργειαν του κρατους της ισχυος αυτου· According to the energy of the power of his might. We may understand these words thus: Might, ισχυς, is the state or simple efficiency of this attribute in God; Power, κρατος, is this might or efficiency in action; Energy, ενεργεια, is the quantum of force, momentum, or velocity, with which the power is applied. Though they appear to be synonymous terms they may be thus understood: passive power is widely different from power in action; and power in action will be in its results according to the energy or momentum with which it is applied. The resurrection of the dead is a stupendous work of God; it requires his might in sovereign action; and when we consider that all mankind are to be raised and changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, then the momentum, or velocity, with which the power is to be applied must be inconceivably great. All motion is in proportion to the quantity of matter in the mover, and the velocity with which it is applied. The effect here is in proportion to the cause and the energy he puts forth in order to produce it. But such is the nature of God's power in action, that it is perfectly inconceivable to us; and even these astonishingly strong words of the apostle are to be understood as used in condescension to human weakness.
20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places - Gave him, as mediator between God and man, the highest honors and dignities, Philippians 2:9; in which state of exaltation he transacts all the affairs of his Church, and rules the universe. The right hand is the place of friendship, honor, confidence, and authority.
21Far 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:
Far above all principality - The difficulty in this verse does not arise from the words themselves, the meaning of each being easily understood, but from the sense in which the apostle uses them. Some think he has reference here to the different orders among good and evil angels; he is superior to all the former, and rules all the latter. Others think he refers to earthly governments; and as αρχη, principality, the first word, signifies the most sovereign and extensive kind of dominion; and κυριοτης, lordship, the last word, signifies the lowest degree of authority; hence we are to understand that to our Lord, in his human nature, are subjected the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest orders of beings in the universe. - Chandler. Others imagine that the apostle has in view, by whatsoever is named in this world, all the dignitaries of the Jewish Church; and by what is named in the world to come, all the dignities that should be found in the Christian Church.
Schoettgen supposes that the "apostle's αρχη (for αρχοντες, the abstract for the concrete) means the same as the נשיאים Nesiim among the Jews, whose chief business it was to clear and decide all contentions which arose concerning traditions and legal controversies.
"That εξουσια, power, is the same as צורבא tsorba, he who possesses authority to propound, expound, persuade, convince, and refute.
"That δυναμις, might, answers to רבנות rabbanoth, signifying all the class of rabbins, whose office it was to expound the law, and teach the people generally.
"And that κυριοτης, dominion, answers to מר mar, which signifies a person above the lower orders of men. And he observes that Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, called fishermen, publicans, and men from the lowest orders of the people, to the work of the ministry; and made them instruments of confounding and overturning all the Jewish rulers, rabbins, and doctors. And that in the world which is to come - the successive ages of Christianity, he should ever be exalted above all those powers and authorities which Antichrist might bring into the Christian Church; such as popes, cardinals, wicked archbishops, bishops, deans, and canons; and all those who among the schoolmen were termed seraphic doctors, angelic doctors, most illuminated, most perfect, and irrefragable doctors. And although Wiclif, Huss, Luther, Melancthon, and the rest of the reformers, were men of little or no note when compared with the rulers of the popish Church, so eminently did the power of Christ work in and by them, that the pope and all his adjutants were every where confounded, and their power and authority annihilated in several entire regions."
It is certain that the apostle means that all created power, glory, and influence, are under Christ; and hence it is added:
22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
And hath put all things under his feet - All beings and things are subject to him, whether they be thrones, dominions, principalities, or powers, Colossians 1:16-18; Colossians 2:10; for he, God the Father, has given him to be head - chief, and supreme, over all, to the Church, the Church having no ruler but Jesus Christ; others may be officers in his Church, but he alone is head and supreme.
23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Which is his body - As he is head over all things, he is head to the Church; and this Church is considered as the body of which he is especially the head; and from him, as the head, the Church receives light, life, and intelligence.
And is the fullness of him - That in which he especially manifests his power, goodness, and truth; for though he fills all the world with his presence, yet he fills all the members of his mystical body with wisdom, goodness, truth, and holiness, in an especial manner. Some understand the fullness or πληρωμα, here, as signifying the thing to be filled; so the Christian Church is to be filled by him, whose fullness fills all his members, with all spiritual gifts and graces. And this corresponds with what St. John says, John 1:16 : And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. And with what is said, Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10 : Ye are complete in him; και εστε εν αυτῳ πεπληρωμενοι· And ye are in him filled full; i.e. with gifts and grace.
How, in any other sense, the Church can be said to be the fullness of him who fills all in all, is difficult to say. However, as Jesus Christ is represented to be the head, and the Church, the body under that head, the individuals being so many members in that body; and as it requires a body and members to make a head complete; so it requires a Church, or general assembly of believers, to make up the body of Christ. When, therefore, the Jews and Gentiles are brought into this Church, the body may be said to be complete; and thus Christ has his visible fullness upon earth, and the Church may be said to be the fullness of him, etc. See Ephesians 1:10.