“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.”
Verse 22 begins with an allusion to Psalm 8:6 where David speaks of Adam as he came from the creative hand of God, saying, “Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.” In Ephesians 1:22 Paul applies this state- ment to Christ as the head of God’s new creation, the church. The headship forfeited by the fall is restored by the last Adam.
I Corinthians 15:27 shows this sovereign rule will eventuate in the defeat of the last enemy, death. The brow that wore the crown of thorns now bears the diadem of kingship, and the pierced hands now hold the scepter of the sovereign. One should not neglect the commentary of Hebrews 2:5-9 on Psalm 8:6.
Christ has been given to the church as its head. The word given is not equivalent to appointed, though there is similarity of meaning. The word appointed would point to sovereignty whereas the word given (di÷dwmi = didomi) emphasizes the loving beneficent bestowal. Headship involves the ideas of authority and unity. How do the words to the church fit? Perhaps a paraphrase best explains. God has given Him who is head of all things to the church. The sovereign Christ is God’s gift to the church. He who is head of all things is given to the church as its head also. This means the church has overcoming ability because her leader is head of all things.
This is the first mention of the church in the book of Ephesians, and it supplies us with its fundamental sense. The church is the body of Christ. Paul speaks the same way in Ephesians 4:4, 12, 16, and 5:30. The church is not an organization but an organism. It is not a denomination, for the Bible knows nothing of the Baptist church, the Methodist church, nor any other formal organization. It is universal, invisible, and innumerable; and it exists only because of its vital relationship to Christ. This relationship is developed in Colossians and Ephesians. Other passages such as Romans 2:4-5, I Corinthians 10:17, 12:22-27 recognize the church as Christ’s body, but it is the function of the members, not the headship of Christ, that is developed.
What do the words fulness of Him mean? The word fulness has a wide range of meanings in the New Testament. In Colossians 2:9 it is applied especially to Christ saying, “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form….” Here fulness refers to the deity of Jesus. This seems to fit best in Ephesians 1:23 also.
How should the words who fills all in all be understood? The participle ills (plhro÷w = plaroo) is in the present tense. This shows that the process is continuous and operates until all things are brought into full subjection. The emphasis is on the present and ongoing process, not the final outcome.
THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE CHURCH 2:1-10
Her Past in Sin 2:1-3
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of dis- obedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
The second person pronoun you is a thread running through the first two chapters of Ephesians. Its occurrence in 2:1 resumes the you of 1:13 and anticipates the you of verse 11. Why does Paul not refer to us instead? Paul is viewing the church from his Jewish per- spective. In Ephesians 1:12 he spoke of we (Jews) who were the first to hope in Christ. With the next verse, he begins to include the Gentiles, saying, you (Gentiles) also (in addition to us Jews). And now, as chapter 2 opens he addresses the Gentiles with reference to their past (2:1-3) and then their present (2:6-10). This does not mean that the Gentiles are in a condition unknown to the Jew, however. The words we too in verse 3 remind us of this fact— the Jew is no better off by nature than the Gentile. In reviewing his reader’s past in sin, he focuses on five features of the unbeliever’s life as God sees him.
Every Unbeliever is Spiritually Dead 2:1 Paul begins a sentence, quickly breaks off, and then resumes in verse 5. Each verse begins with a reminder that all were once dead in trespasses, sins, and transgressions. Verse 5 introduces the main verb, which tells how our sin problem was solved—we were made alive together. See Colossians 2:14 for a parallel statement. Paul has dealt with the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and is now ready to demonstrate how that same power brings to life men and women who are dead in sins. The participle were, found here and repeated emphatically in verse 5, is a present tense describing the condition existing when made alive. The life imparted by God was not preceded by moral and spiritual refor- mation.
The death spoken of in verse 1 describes man’s relationship to God. Physical death is the separation of body from soul and spirit; spiritual death is separation of man from God. It does not imply that the unbeliever is not alert to life on the earthly level. As a mat- ter of fact, Paul pictures the unbeliever as very much alive to all the lures of sin, but moribund with respect to God. To be dead in sins means that the most vital part of man’s being, his spirit, has no fellowship with God, and thus man lives while dead. His human sensitivities are alive; his spiritual sensitivity is dead. Heavenward dimension is missing—a soul with no skylight. The tragedy of the continuation of such a condition is vividly described as the second death in Revelation 20:6, 14-15, 21:8.
Death is the fundamental description of the unbeliever and implies three things. First, it implies previous life. One cannot die who has not once lived. This is the condition brought about by the sin of Adam and passed to the entire race (Romans 5:12). Second, it implies insensibility. A corpse does not respond to stimuli. Third, it implies helplessness. What corpse has acted with respect to oth- ers, much less cured its own condition? Man has propounded at least two human theories as to the condition of man. First, man is ill but convalescing. Second, man is ill but will respond to proper treatment (the rites and regimen of religious routine). The word of God teaches that regimen can do nothing more than disguise spiritual necrosis. Why is the metaphor of death appropriate? First, it describes a condition beyond human remedy. Second,it requires a solution that only God can give.
Every Unbeliever is Dominated by Cosmic Viewpoint 2:2a The words in which agree with the noun sins but probably incorpo- rate the entire phrase in trespasses and sins. This marks the begin- ning of a typical Pauline digression that continues until verse 5. Paul is going to explore the walk of the unbeliever, marking off its salient features. Verses 2-4 give a fuller account of the sins and tres- passes in which his readers once lived.
The aorist tense verb walked (peripate÷w = peripateo) views the presalvation life in summary fashion. It tells the whole story of one’s existence before becoming a Christian It is a favorite expres- sion of Paul’s, occurring seven times in Ephesians, referring to one’s manner of life (Ephesians 2:2, 10, 4:1, 17, 5:2, 8,15). Though spiritually dead, great activity goes on within the circuit of sin. Every move a non-Christian makes is a “death-walk.” From divine perspective, there is nothing else worth saying, for all else is irrele- vant. But there is good news; this is the way the Ephesian believers had walked formerly (pote÷ = pote), meaning once in the sense of no more. Temporally believers on earth still walk in this age, but spiri- tually we are separate from it. Jesus puts it in simple words as He prays for His own, saying, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one (John 17:15).”
The walk was according to the course of this world. We all live under spiritual influence of some sort, and by default that influ- ence is evil. Paul is not speaking of acts of sins committed by unbe- lievers but of the entire atmosphere in which they once lived i.e.,the spiritual air they breathed. The preposition according to (kata÷ = kata) is used to introduce a standard or norm, that to which one conforms. The word course (aijw¿n = aion) is described in Galatians 1:4 as evil. The word world (ko÷smoß = kosmos) lies, according to I John 5:19 in the power of the evil one. An evil and transitory environment is the unbeliever’s “walk-about”! Both of these terms are used separately in other places by Paul but only here are they joined together. This gives this verse special force. The unbeliever
is the dupe of Satan’s system, which finds expression in the consensus of human opinion, the claptrap of every hour of every day. The condition is sad because the unbeliever is unaware that Satan’s kingdom exists. But the sadness of the matter becomes tragedy since Satan’s world gives the rewards of respectability and applause. Thus, unbelievers by the million win the Pulitzer prize in cosmic thinking, breathe their last, and perish forever.
Every Unbeliever is Energized by Satan 2:2b The word prince is attached to two descriptive statements. Satan is said to be prince of the power of the air (demonic realm) and prince of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience (human realm). The of in the expression of the spirit implies that this spirit is not Satan himself. The word prince and the word spirit are not in apposition in the Greek (prince is accusative; spirit is genitive.) Spirit is used here in the sense of the “spirit of the age,” which is under the domination and direction of Satan (I John 5:19).
The expression children of disobedience is a semitic way of refer- ring to men by that which characterizes their life. Disobedience is the conscious resistance to the will of God, which, in turn, lays man open to the working of Satan. Standing opposite are the chil- dren of obedience (I Peter 1:14).
Satan is viewed here in two ways. First, his external abode is expressed by the word air (ajh÷r = aer), which refers to the lower regions of the sky as in I Thessalonians 4:17. Second, his internal working is expressed by the word spirit. This helps explain Paul’s reference to the rulers…powers…world forces…spiritual forces of wicked- ness in the heavenly places spoken of in Ephesians 6:12.
Mention of the realm of Satan introduces a major idea found in Ephesians: invisible conflict of the power of God and the power of Satan. The working of God is operative in the resurrection of Christ (Ephesians 1:19), and the working of Satan is operative in the spirit of the unbeliever. The word working is chosen to show Satan’s rivalry with the Holy Spirit. Satan, the unholy spirit, mimics the work of the Holy Spirit in his unceasing activity. From this comes the invisible warfare spoken of in Ephesians 6:11-12.
Every Unbeliever is Controlled by His Sin Nature 2:3a
With the words we too, Paul shows the condition he is describing is true of both Jew and Gentile. The word all means there are no exceptions. What may be said of Gentiles concerning their depravi- ty is equally true of the Jews.
The verb walked in verse 2 is a synonym of the verb lived in verse 3. The former refers to personal conduct; the latter refers to social action—those actions dictated by the society in which we live. The phrase lusts of our flesh is not limited to sexual impulse. The word translated lust means desire, either bad or good. The plu- ral form points to the multitude of evil desires that stem from man’s sinful nature. Evil impulse is present in man’s heart from birth and needs only the least provocation to burst into flame. Like a powder keg, man’s sinful nature can be very quiet until ignited by a tiny spark that bursts into flame—“Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” says James (James 3:5). The word flesh is a subjective genitive showing the source of the desires. The flesh (sa¿rx = sarx) is the fallen and corrupt nature of man that is the antagonist of the will of God, standing in particular resistance to the Holy Spirit. This is why every son and daughter learns to sin without instruction.
The flesh can manifest itself in respectable forms as well as indisreputable pursuits. The pronoun we shows Paul included him- self in the statement being made; and yet, his past is described in Philippians 3:4-6 in terms of religious orthodoxy and practice. Here he lists items of religious merit as examples of confidence in the flesh. The domination of the sin nature in Paul’s pre-salvation life expressed itself in a respectable form.
Every Unbeliever is Under Divine Wrath 2:3b
The words by nature stand in contrast to the words by grace in vers- es 6 and 8. The word nature (fu÷siß = phusis) carries the following meanings in the New Testament. First, it may refer to one’s instinct, and is so translated in Romans 2:14. The context of the word in this passage shows it to be a reference to man’s conviction untouched by God’s word. Second, the word may mean by birth and is so used in Galatians 2:15, translated by nature.
What does the phrase children of wrath mean? The expression is a Hebraism used to describe a characteristic feature of one’s exis- tence. It refers to those who deserve wrath, so that children of wrath is equal to objects of wrath. But of whose wrath is Paul speaking? Ephesians 5:6 makes it clear that Paul has God’s wrath in mind. A major feature of the unbeliever’s existence is the disfavor and anger of a righteous God. Ephesians 2:1-3 is a microcosm of Romans 1:18-2:29.
Having established the helpless and hopeless condition of man alienated from God, Paul now turns to describe the masterstroke of grace that transforms men who are dead in sin to seat them in the heavenly places in Christ.
Her Present in Grace 2:4-10 The Source of Our New Position in Christ 2:4-5a
THE DIVINE SIDE 2:4
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”
The words but God show us that the wrath of God just spoken of is not the whole story, and the condition of man is not irreversible. Because of the holiness of His character, God can never approve of sin; but this does not mean He is hostile toward the sinner. As we are about to be taught, God looks upon the sinner in mercy and love. Ephesians 2:1-3 is the black background against which the radiance of God’s grace is displayed.
God moves to provide salvation for man because He is rich in mercy. Mercy (e¡leoß = eleos) involves much more than sympathy and feeling. It is the quality that sees misery and is willing and able to do something to relieve it. Mercy is sympathy resulting in salvation; it is compassion in work clothes. In the New Testament the word has special reference to what God has done for us in Christ.
What is the significance of the word rich? When applied to man, it is a relative term. If we say, “He is rich,” one could then ask “How rich?” When applied to God, it indicates infinity. How rich is God? God is rich beyond measure. God is infinite in all His attributes—infinite in love, in power, in knowledge, and mercy.
THE HUMAN SIDE 2:5A “…even when we were dead in our transgressions…”
These words resume the opening words of verse 1 with one excep- tion: The second person pronoun you is replaced with the first per- son plural we. The condition described in verses 1-3 is neither gen- tile nor Jewish, but universal. In this verse Paul will complete his thought by adding a verb in this verse that expresses what Paul wishes to say in this paragraph (2:1-10). The verb is the first of three prefixed with the Greek preposition sun (su¿n). In bringing us from wrath to grace, these three compound verbs express the action of God.
We are made “alive together” (su¿n-zwpoie÷w = sun-zopoieo).
We are “raised together” (su¿n-ejgei÷rw = sun- egeiro).
We are “seated together” (su¿n-kaqi÷zw = sun- kathizo).
Each of the verbs is in the aorist tense. They express what God has
already done for every believer. These three blessings are facts
related to the past, not the future—they describe Christians now!
The Description of Our New Position in Christ 2:5b-6 “…made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus…”
The parenthetical words by grace you have been saved will be repeat- ed and expounded in verse 8. The salvation of the readers is viewed in retrospect as shown by the perfect tense of the participle saved.
The resurrection and ascension of Jesus has its spiritual counterpart in the salvation of the believer. Three days after His death, Jesus was raised from the dead. This finds its counterpart in the regeneration of the one who was once spiritually dead. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to the throne of God where He took His seat at the Father ’s right hand. God has also enthroned those whom He has raised from spiritual death and seated them in heavenly places.
The resurrection and ascension of Jesus are stupendous events. Not only do they guarantee our future resurrection and glorification, they also provide life and glory in our present state. They impact us temporally and eternally, and positionally and experien- tially, now and at the end of the age.
The Purpose of Our New Position in Christ 2:7
“…in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Whenever New Testament writers speak of God’s love, power, and grace, they tie them to concrete realities. The following shows how these qualities are taught.
Christ’s Death (Romans 5:8)
Christ’s Resurrection (Ephesians 1:19-20)
Believer’s Share in Christ’s
Exaltation (Ephesians 2:7)
Verse 7 begins with a connective word used to introduce pur- pose. What was God’s intent in making us alive, raising us, and seating us with Christ? It was to make an eternal display of His grace.
The verb might show (dei÷knumi = deiknumi) is always found in the middle voice in the New Testament. It therefore means to show for oneself, that is, for one’s own glory. Believers saved by grace are God’s publicity program of the ages.
Ephesians 1:19 spoke of God’s surpassing power, and now the same is said of His grace. The superabundance of grace corre- sponds to the superabundance of power. God is as gracious as He is powerful. If the raising of Christ from the dead and placing Him at the Father’s right hand is the supreme demonstration of power, then the raising of those once dead in sins and seating them in heaven is the supreme demonstration of God’s grace. Four words have been used so far to point to the source of sal- vation. It is rooted in—
God’s mercy (e¡leoß = eleos): action taken with respect to our misery; it is sympathy in work clothes (Ephesians 2:4).
God’s love (ajga¿ph = agapa) is divine love as manifested in the death of Christ for men (Ephesians 2:4).
God’s grace (ca¿riß = charis) is the quality that extends salvation to man irrespective of his merit or demerit (Ephesians 2:5).
God’s kindness (crhsto÷thß = chrestotes) is love in tender action. It is used only by Paul and carries the idea of generosity and benevolent action (Ephesians 2:7).The Explanation of Our New Position in Christ 2:8-9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of your- selves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Man creates his own ruin; but only God can provide his salvation, and this by grace. The noun grace has the definite article the with it. It is used to indicate previous reference. Paul is saying, “I wish to give further explanation to the grace that I previously referred to in verse 5.” It is not grace in general but rather saving grace of which Paul now speaks. To define grace as unmerited favor is true to the facts of the New Testament. All efforts to gain the favor of God by human works or ritual are the sadly misguided efforts of self-righteousness.The participle saved is a perfect tense, meaning the action was completed in the past with results abiding in the present.
The words yourselves and works both have the preposition of (ejk = ek) in front of them, which points to origin or source. Man and his works are denied as sources of salvation. Of works is an explanation of what is meant by of yourselves.
What is the reference of the pronoun that in the expression that not of yourselves? First, it cannot refer to the noun faith. The word faith is feminine gender and the word that is neuter gender. The reference is to the whole idea of a grace salvation.
The words not of works preclude any mixture of works with faith. Paul teaches us that grace and works as a means of gaining salvation are mutually exclusive (Romans 11:6, Romans 4:5). The phrase that no one should boast is repeated in Romans 3:27 where all possibility of prideful boasting is shut out by faith. If salvation were by works, men would have something to boast about (Romans 4:2). Faith is a non-meritorious act, it is not a work. Since
it is the sole ground of salvation no grounds for pride exist. Faith is
the suspension-bridge by which God’s gracious salvation comes to
The Result of Our New Position in Christ 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The word workmanship (poi÷hma = poiema) is the word from which the English poem is derived. It refers to a work of art, a master- piece. It is used only here and Romans 1:20. In each case it refers to that which is divinely created. Here is the balance of faith and works: We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. No one more forcefully repudiated salvation by works than Paul; no one more emphatically insisted upon them as the fruit of salvation.
The phrase created in Christ Jesus explains the words a new crea- ture found in II Corinthians 5:17 as well as the new creation of Galatians 6:15. The verb created (kti÷zw = ktizo) is used only of God because it speaks of that which only He can do.
The words which God prepared beforehand refer to works. It means the power and desire for good works are from God and are the manifestation of His work of grace in one’s life. We are not left to self-chosen activity; the epistles are full of works expected of every believer. They are not self-produced, they are grace-produced.
It is in these prepared works that we are to walk. The verb is lit- erally walk about in (peripate÷w = peripateo). The Christian has no grounds for boasting—salvation is by grace and the road of good works is already built. Even the good we do finds God as its source.
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 2:11-22
Paul is now going to review his reader’s spiritual history again but from a different vantage point. Ephesians 2:1-10 reviews his reader’s past and present as individuals; Ephesians 2:11-22 reviews their past and present as Gentiles. Considered from a different angle, Ephesians 2:1-10 reviews his reader’s past with reference to their moral condition; now in Ephesians 2:11-22 he reviews that past with reference to their deprivations as non-Jews.
In the Old Testament the Jew was God’s chosen people, and Gentiles related to God through them. Monotheism was learned from Israel, and the means of approach to God was learned through the institutions of Israel. But now, Paul teaches there is one body made up of Jew and Gentile alike called the church. There are distinct features of life in the church, and we need to know them in order to relate to the will of God properly.
Our Past as Gentiles 2:11-12
In General Terms 2:11 “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is per- formed in the flesh by human hands—”
The connective therefore refers back to Ephesians 2:1-10, a single sentence in the Greek New Testament. The command to remember is significant. It is salutary to reflect on what we would be and were apart from God’s grace. Exercise of memory often deepens humility.
The words the Gentiles sets them apart as a certain class of peo- ple. It signifies more than non-Israelites, however. Were this all that is intended, then they were Gentiles; they remain Gentiles; and they will always be Gentiles. To be a Gentile was to be deprived of religious privilege, which Paul is about to point out.
The word formerly (pote÷ = pote) in verse 11 stands in direct con- trast to now (nuni÷ = nuni) in verse 13. God made a covenant with Abram and selected him and his descendants as His chosen people. The physical sign of this rela- tionship was circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14). Though essential, it had nothing to do with personal salvation (Romans 4:9-11).The
Jews had a contemptuous terms for non-Jews. It is obscured by the translation uncircumcision (ajkrobusti÷a = akrobustia), which means foreskin. To the Jew, this was the collective designation of the entire heathen world.
In Specific Terms 2:12
“… remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Israel was the only nation in the world that had Messianic expecta- tions. Jesus summarized concisely in John 4:22, saying, “Salvation is from the Jews.” Paul spoke of the same privileges in Romans 9:4-5. This passage is full of contrasts. Separate from Christ stands in sharp contrast to their present position in Christ Jesus spoken of in verse 13.
What is meant by the commonwealth of Israel? It refers to that government framed by God by which Israel was ruled. Israel was the only nation to possess a constitution given by God. To honor the king of Israel was synonymous with fearing the God of Israel. No such condition existed in any other nation. In Israel there was no distinction of civil and sacred. Spiritual meaning was attached to everything including diet and dress, tabernacle and temple.
To be excluded from Israel meant exclusion from the word of God since they alone were its recipients (Psalm 147:19-20). All of the covenants promising a Messiah and salvation were made with Israel. Being without the aforementioned things, Gentiles had no hope and were without God in the world. The plight of the Gentile may be summarized as Christless, hopeless, and Godless.
Our Present as Christians 2:13-22 The New Position 2:13
“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
The words in Christ Jesus relate to verse 13 as separate from Christ did to verse 12. Paul now shows how the blood of Christ has turned isolation into reconciliation and enmity to amity. The name Jesus is brought in at this point, perhaps to show that He was not only the Messiah of Israel but the Savior of humanity. Notice the centrality of the atonement: His blood (verse 13); His flesh (verse
15); and His cross (verse 16).
The words far and near are significant for two reasons. First,
they are Hebrew idioms that describe the position of Jews and
Gentiles relative to God (Isaiah 57:19). The word far (makra¿n =
makron) was used by Peter in his proclamation of the gospel on
the day of Pentecost saying, “ ‘For the promise is for you and your
children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God
shall call to Himself’ (Acts 2:39).”
The New Blessing 2:14-18
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”
The word peace is made special by the presence of the definite arti- cle the preceding it. The grammatical structure (the article + a pred- icate noun) conveys two ideas. First, it points to something that is well known. Second, it points to something which alone merits that designation. Christ and no other has solved the problem of the relationship of God and man. Christ and no other has solved the problem of man with man.
Christ’s work in making both groups (Jew and Gentile) one (the church) annihilates the distance between the privileged and the non-privileged, and far has become near. The former separation of Jew and Gentile is called the barrier of the dividing wall. The word barrier (fragmo¿ß = phragmos) means fence, wall, hedge, or railing. The word dividing wall (meso¿toicon = mesotoichon) is literally, middle wall. Josephus used both of these words to refer to the balustrade in the temple at Jerusalem that divided the court of the Gentiles from the temple proper. The Jewish historian tells us that the following words were inscribed on this wall of partition: “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” This exercise of capital punishment was upheld by the Roman authorities. One should recall the upheaval that took place when Paul was accused of taking Trophimus, a Gentile, beyond this checkpoint (Acts 21:28-32).
Paul had available to him a word that means peacemaker, but he did not use it. Christ did not make our peace and then retire to the sidelines. He Himself is the very substance of our peace; His very existence established and now maintains our relationship with God. The bringing of peace by the Messiah is a theme of the prophets (Isaiah 9:6, 52:7, 53:5 [well-being is the Hebrew word shalom meaning peace] and 57:19).
The pronoun He is important because it is emphatic, both by form and by position in the sentence. Our translation attempts to bring this out by the words He Himself.
There is no iron curtain, no class distinction, no color barrier, or any other national frontier more absolute than the ancient distinc- tion of Jew and Gentile. Acts 21:28-31 well illustrates this separa- tion. But Jew and Gentile now form one new body, one new man— the church. It is not as though God brought one up to the level of the other; it is rather that God has taken two and made something grander than before. Chrysostrom said, “It is as if one should melt a statue of silver and another of lead and the two together become a statue of gold.”
Historically, the barrier came down with the destruction of the temple at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70 Spiritually, the barri- er came down at the cross. Notice the emphasis on one in verse 14, one new man in verse 15, and one body in verse 16.
Verse 18 speaks of our access (prosagwgh¿ = prosagoga) that lit- erally means to lead toward, to open up a way of approach. It was used of those who secured the privilege of an interview with the king. The blessing of access to God is among those given to every Christian. Romans 5 lists the blessings of justification, and among them is an introduction by faith where Paul uses the same word found here in Ephesians 2:18. The New Relationship 2:19-22
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citi- zens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
OUR CITIZENSHIP 2:19
In order to highlight the privilege that is now ours, Paul uses two terms expressing inferiority. The word strangers (xe÷noß = xenos) referred to a short time resident, a tran- sient; and aliens (pa÷roikoß = paroikos) referred to a person who settled in a country other than that of their birth. This person had no inherent rights and had to secure protection of the laws of the land by payment of a tax.
OUR FOUNDATION 2:20
Paul now advances the thought of being part of God’s household to our position as the house itself. Does foundation of the apostles and prophets mean that apostles are the foundation, or did they lay the foundation? The latter interpreta- tion seems to be dictated by the words of I Corinthians 3:11, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The word cornerstone conveys two ideas. First, when it was dropped into place it bonded the structure together. Second, it showed whether the building had been constructed according to the architect’s instructions.
OUR GROWTH 2:21-22
The phrase being fitted together precisely defines the function of the cornerstone. Perhaps to say the building was “aligned” on Him gets at the sense best. One should remem- ber that the church had no buildings for the first three centuries; and yet, they were very much a building in a spiritual sense. Physical temples have done their part in causing the church to for- get its identity as the true temple.
The present tense of being built together brings out the idea of continuous activity extending through the entire church age. Ephesians 4:11-16 will tell us how this building is to take place; it is the key New Testament passage on church growth.
THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH 3:1-21
With the opening of chapter 3, Paul once again begins a sentence and then he immediately breaks it off. Notice the three opening words of verse 1 and verse 14 are for this reason. The subject of the broken sentence starts in verse 1 with the words I Paul and the verb is suspended until verse 14 where he continues, saying bow my knees.
To what do the words for this reason refer? They refer to the glorious truth of Jew and Gentile brought together into one body called the church. The flow of Paul’s thought runs this way.
He begins—by reminding his gentile readers that he is in prison for their sake (Ephesians 3:1).
He digresses—by explaining his special place in the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 3:2-13).
He concludes—by resuming the prayer he began in verse 1 (Ephesians 3:14-21).
An Explanation of Paul’s Mystery 3:1-6 His Imprisonment 3:1 “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you
The words for this reason look back to the great blessings that have been bestowed on the Gentiles as described in verses 11-22; and now, as Paul looks at his chains, he is reminded of where he is and why he is there.
To this point in the epistle, Paul has been unlike himself in one particular way. His words have been impersonal. His only refer- ence to himself since the salutation is found in 1:16 where he says he does not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers. He has said nothing of his office, of the special relation- ship he bears to the church, or of his sufferings and hard labor expended in order to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Now in Ephesians 3:2-13, Paul becomes intensely personal as he describes the role he has played in bringing the truth of the gospel to the Gentiles. The emphatic I, Paul underscores the intensity of his feel- ings and the authority of his words.
Nero’s prisoner? Absolutely not! Driven to despair by the Jews who had dogged his footsteps across the continent? Never! Paul in chains was the freest of all men for he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ—in chains by His will and for His work. Paul knew that true servanthood is true freedom. It was the jailer, not the prisoner, who was in bondage. As chapter 3 opens, Paul begins a personal description of his ministry with regard to the Gentiles: and with this word Paul begins his digression.
His Stewardship 3:2-6
ITS EXISTENCE 3:2 “if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you ….”
The words if indeed do not suggest doubt. The same words are
used in Ephesians 4:21 where Paul says, “If indeed you have heard
Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.” Paul
surely does not mean they have never heard of Christ! The words
introduce a presupposition—Paul assumes they have heard of the
stewardship that had been given to Paul. We might translate “Most
surely you have heard ….”
The word stewardship (oijkonomi÷a = oikonomia) literally means
law of the house and thus an arrangement, a plan, or an established way of doing things. It is descriptive of the new arrangement God is
working out called the church, or the mystery. The words of God’s
grace tell the leading feature of this plan. We live in a “grace
administration” under a “grace plan”, a “grace arrangement.” It
was from God, to Paul, and to them and us.
Literally, Paul speaks of “the grace of God which was given to
me for you.” This is a favorite expression of Paul found also in
Galatians 2:9, Romans 15:15, and Colossians 1:25. In each instance
the grace referred to is not that which was given for Paul’s person-
al enrichment but instead refers to the gospel he was to communi-
cate to the Gentile world. In God’s “house arrangement” (2:19),
Paul’s special function was the building of the gentile portion.
ITS SOURCE 3:3-4 “… that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ …”
The word revelation (ajpoka÷luyiß = apokalupsis) is a compound word with a preposition from and a verb to hide or conceal, or the noun form veil. Revelation is the act of unveiling. When we speak of the Bible as a revelation,we are referring to the act of God whereby He makes truth known that man would not and could not discover on his own. The verb made known is passive voice, which means the subject is the receiver of the action, not the producer.
The word mystery occurs about twenty-eight times in the New Testament, twenty-one of which are found in Paul’s writings (six in Ephesians). It consistently refers to something previously con- cealed but presently revealed. It is not something that is in itself incomprehensible but something unknown until God chooses to reveal it. In Ephesians the mystery refers to God’s secret plan to integrate Jew and Gentile into one body. The mystery was not that Gentiles could be saved, this was known in Old Testament times (Genesis 12:3), but that the two should become one new man (2:15). Colossians 1:27 presents another aspect of the mystery, namely, the residence of Christ in and among believers.Paul tells three things about the mystery—
He has placed it in writing—The content and explanation of the mystery has become “inscripturated.” As such, it is part of the revelation of truth found in the word of God.
He has done so briefly—The words briefly (ej¡n ojli÷goß = en oli- gos) may refer to few words or short space. Paul is probably referring his readers to what he has already written to them, i.e., Ephesians 2:11-22 or 1:9-10.
He has done so with purpose—First, Paul has placed the con- tent of the mystery in writing so it can be read. Second, if given by God to be read, it follows that God intends that it be under- stood.
ITS UNIQUENESS 3:5 “… which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit …”The antecedent of the pronoun which is the mystery. Here Paul brings up a new point—the newness of the revelation of the mys- tery. By the words sons of men, Paul lays stress on succeeding gener- ations. Sons were born who died, and to them were sons born who also died, and to them sons—generation after generation. And now, Paul says, the day of revelation is upon us!
The word as (wJß = hos) introduces several points of comparison. First is comparison in point of time—previous generation ver us now. Second is comparison of breadth of revelation—general information versus full information. The third comparison is in the objects of revelation—sons of men compared to apostles and prophets. They are described as holy, meaning they were appointed, supported, inspired, and acknowledged by Him.
The Old Testament is full of revelation concerning the blessing of God on the Gentiles through Israel. The Old Testament did not envision the superceding of the age of Israel for a new body called the church. The “half-lights” of the past are compared to the new revelation given to Paul. The sons of men of the past, are compared to the holy prophets and apostles of the present.
ITS NATURE 3:6 “… to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel …”
Verse 6 is a summarizing verse, pulling together Ephesis 2:11-22. Three terms are used to express the relationship of believing Jews and believing Gentiles in the church age. They are an exposition of the words of Ephesians 2:15, one new man.
Gentiles are fellow-heirs—Paul speaks of believers as co-heirs with Christ in Romans 8:17, Galatians 3:29, and 4:7. Gentiles are fellow-members—This word may have been coined by Paul since it is not found in the Septuagint and only here in the New Testament, and later only in Christian writers. Gentiles are fellow-partakers—This expression is found also in Ephesians 5:7. An Explanation of Paul’s Ministry 3:7-13 Its Divine Origin 3:7
“… of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.”
Colossians 1:24-27 is a parallel passage to Ephesians 3:7. In both places the magnitude of Paul’s ministry matches the wideness of God’s mercy to the Gentiles. The words according to the working of His power shows that while Paul glorified his ministry, this was not equivalent to glorifying himself. His ministry was based on God’s grace and infused with God’s power. The passive voice of the verb was made shows Paul’s ministry was not of his own choosing.
The Greek language is rich with words that designate high office. However, the New Testament rejects all of these titles and focuses on a word unassociated with prestige. It is the word minis- ter (dia÷konoß = diakonos), which referred to a table waiter who was always at the bidding of his customers.
The words according to (kata÷ = kata) occur twice introducing two parallel clauses. The first describes the gift of grace given to Paul at his calling (Acts 9). The second points to the divine power that sustained that gift daily.
Its Specific Responsibility 3:8-12
TO PROCLAIM 3:8
“… To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ …”
The words very least (ejla÷cisto” = elachistos) translate a double diminutive that means very small, quite unimportant, insignificant. The magnitude of the grace entrusted to Paul overwhelms him with a sense of unworthiness. The only counterbalancing truth is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” No man ever pressed his claims to the high office of apostle as fervently; yet no man ever had a greater sense of personal unworthiness than Paul.
If Paul’s statements of unworthiness are placed in chronologi- cal order, one observes a display an increasing humility. First, in I Corinthians 15:9 he calls himself the least of the apostles. Second, here in Ephesians 3:8 he is least of all saints. Third, in I Timothy 1:15 he speaks of sinners among whom I am foremost of all.
The word unfathomable (ajnexicni÷astoß = anexichniastos) liter- ally means not to be tracked out and thus inscrutable. All spiritual wealth is in Christ, so that Paul and all believers stand in them- selves possessing nothing but in Christ possessing all! The word is used one other time in the New Testament where it describes the ways of God (Romans 11:33).
The word riches in the figurative sense has no biblical parallel outside the writings of Paul. He uses the word five times in Ephesians (1:7, 18, 2:7, 3;8, 16).
TO ENLIGHTEN 3:9-10
“… and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”
Why does Paul use the metaphor of light; why does he not say “to teach”? Perhaps it is because teaching is external, whereas enlight- enment is internal. The aim of teaching is to enlighten, and Paul wants to see that goal achieved. It is never the will of God for believers to be in the dark concerning their function within the body of Christ. What had been screened from angels and hidden from men in time past is now to be declared through the church (Ephesians 2:6-7). The church is a mirror through which the wisdom of God is reflected to men and angels in both time and eternity.
The word manifold (polupoi÷kiloß = polupoikilos) is very color- ful. It may describe something as many-sided or multi-colored (of cloth); diversely colored (of flowers). In modern use it is a technical term used in biology for unusually assorted crystals. We could translate “many-splendored” or “iridescent.”
TO REVEAL 3:11-12
“This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.”
The plan of the ages is carried out in Jesus Christ; and because of our position in Him, we are an integral part of this great plan.
Verse 12 is a practical application of the truth being taught. Because we are in Christ, we need not have inhibitions concerning our own lack of merit. The word boldness (parrhsi÷a = parrasia) literally means telling all and is used of free speech.
Its Practical Application 3:13 “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf,
for they are your glory.”
In verse 1 Paul had made the statement that his imprisonment was on behalf of the Gentiles. Now he repeats himself with the added note that this fact should not be discouraging to them. The Gentiles represent the price he paid so blessing could come to them. Paul viewed his trials as their glory, and he desires them to view things the same way. The Passion of Paul’s Ministry 3:14-21 The Motivation of Paul’s Prayer 3:14-15
“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name…”
Ephesians 3:14-21 does two things. First, it completes the sentence that was started in 3:1. Second, it closes the doctrinal section of Ephesians with a benediction. The prayer is trinitarian in nature. Verse 16 speaks of the power of the Spirit; verse 17 of the indwelling of Christ; and verse 19 speaks of the fulness of God.
MOTIVATION DERIVED FROM DIVINE ACTIVITY
For this reason points back to God’s activity in making a building of Jew and Gentile (2:22); of making a temple of Jew and Gentile (2:21); and of making a household of Jew and Gentile (2:19-20).
MOTIVATION EXPRESSED IN HUMAN ADORATION
Paul’s kneeling posture is unusual. In the New Testament, standing to pray is the rule. Kneeling was expressive of unusual and deep emotion
(Luke 22:41, Acts 20:36-38, and 21:5). The words gain more signifi- cance when they are related to Isaiah 45:23, “I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Kneeling conveys the ideas of sub- missiveness, adoration, and solemnity.
The preposition before (pro÷ß = pros) means facing—it is the “face-to-face” preposition, denoting directness, and is used of inti- mate relationships.
The words every family should probably be understood in the sense of whole family. This interpretation confines the statement to believers—the family of God. The emphasis lies on unity, not plu- rality. The family of God idea certainly fits the theme of Ephesians. The words in heaven would include deceased believers.
The Petition of Paul’s Prayer 3:16-19 “… that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.”
Paul sets forth the content of his prayer by the word that (iJna =
hina) the Greek purpose clause.
THAT YOU MAY RECEIVE THE STRENGTH OF THE SPIRIT 3:16
The generosity of a gift is determined by the resources of the giver. God’s giving never depletes or even lessens His resources. The word strengthened is the exact opposite of the word lose heart in verse 13. To fix one’s eyes on man, even one as great as Paul, is to lose heart. On the other hand, to look to the Lord is to be strength- ened. The preposition in (ei•ß = eis) coupled with the inner man emphasizes depth of penetration. “Deep into the inner man” expresses the idea.
THAT YOU MAY RECEIVE THE COMPREHENSION OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST
The word dwell (katoike÷w = katoikeo) is a compound verb meaning to dwell down. We would say “settle down.” It is used in the sense of one being at home.
The ultimate end of the power of the Spirit is expressed by two metaphors.The first is biological, expressed by the word rooted. The
second is architectural and is found in the word grounded.
THAT YOU MAY RECEIVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE FULNESS OF GOD
3:19B The fulness of God points to the fulness that He requires of His children. The creature is never equal to the Creator, but the creature can be that for which he was created.
The Doxology of Paul’s Prayer 3:20-21
“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
The benediction represents the high point in the book of Ephesians. Much is yet to come, but its theme is the outworking of our high position in Christ. We are in Christ—we can ascend no higher.
The chief thought here is this: Has Paul asked too much? Certainly not, and this is expressed by Paul’s use of a “super superlative.” It is the word exceedingly abundantly (uJperekperissouv = huperekperissou), an adverb meaning quite beyond all measure, indeed, the highest form of comparison imaginable. We could translate infinitely more. The word occurs also in I Thessalonians 3:10 (most earnestly), and 5:13 (very highly).
God’s power is super-abundant with regard to two things: first, with respect to anything we can request in prayer; second, anything we can conceive of by anticipation. A poet put is this way.
Thou art coming to a King; Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much.
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