Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CHRIST, THROUGH THE
1. And you--"You also," among those who have experienced His mighty
power in enabling them to believe
hath he quickened--supplied from the Greek
A living corpse: without the gracious presence of God's Spirit in the
soul, and so unable to think, will, or do aught that is holy.
in trespasses . . . sins--in them, as the element in which the
unbeliever is, and through which he is dead to the true life. Sin is the
death of the soul.
"Alienated from the life of God"
Translate, as Greek, "in your trespasses," &c. "Trespass" in
Greek, expresses a FALL or LAPSE, such as the transgression of Adam whereby he
fell. "Sin." (Greek, "hamartia") implies innate
corruption and ALIENATION from God
(literally, erring of the mind from the rule of truth),
exhibited in acts of sin (Greek, "hamartemata").
BENGEL, refers "trespasses" to the Jews who had
the law, and yet revolted from it; "sins," to the Gentiles who know not
2. the course of this world--the career (literally, "the age,"
or present system of this world
(1Co 2:6, 12; 3:18, 19,
as opposed to "the world to come"): alien from God, and lying in the
"The age" (which is something more external and ethical) regulates "the
world" (which is something more external).
the prince of the power of the air--the unseen God who lies underneath
guiding "the course of this world"
ranging through the air around us: compare
"fowls of the air" (Greek, "heaven") that is,
"Satan" and his demons. Compare
Christ's ascension seems to have cast Satan out of heaven
(Re 12:5, 9, 10, 12, 13),
where he had been heretofore the accuser of the brethren
No longer able to accuse in heaven those justified by Christ,
the ascended Saviour
(Ro 8:33, 34),
he assails them on earth with all trials and temptations; and "we live
in an atmosphere poisonous and impregnated with deadly elements. But a
mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ's coming"
[AUBERLEN], for Satan shall be bound
(Re 12:12, 13, 15, 17; 20:2, 3).
"The power" is here used collectively for the "powers of the air"; in
apposition with which "powers" stand the "spirits," comprehended in the
singular, "the spirit," taken also collectively: the aggregate of the
which "work now (still; not merely, as in your case, 'in time
past') in the sons of disobedience" (a Hebraism: men who are not
merely by accident disobedient, but who are essentially sons of
disobedience itself: compare
and of which Satan is here declared to be "the prince." The
Greek does not allow "the spirit" to refer to Satan, "the
prince" himself, but to "the powers of the air" of which he is
prince. The powers of the air are the embodiment of that evil "spirit"
which is the ruling principle of unbelievers, especially the heathen
as opposed to the spirit of the children of God
The potency of that "spirit" is shown in the "disobedience" of the
"children in whom is no faith"
(Isa 30:9; 57:4).
They disobey the Gospel both in faith and practice
3. also we--that is, we also. Paul here joins himself in the
same category with them, passing from the second person
(Eph 2:1, 2)
to the first person here.
all--Jews and Gentiles.
our conversation--"our way of life"
This expression implies an outwardly more decorous course, than
the open "walk" in gross sins on the part of the majority of
Ephesians in times past, the Gentile portion of whom may be specially
referred to in
Paul and his Jewish countrymen, though outwardly more seemly than the
(Ac 26:4, 5, 18),
had been essentially like them in living to the unrenewed flesh,
without the Spirit of God.
mind--Greek, "our thoughts." Mental suggestions and purposes
(independent of God), as distinguished from the blind impulses of "the
and were by nature--He intentionally breaks off the construction,
substituting "and we were" for "and being," to mark emphatically his and
their past state by nature, as contrasted with their present state
by grace. Not merely is it, we had our way of life fulfilling our
fleshly desires, and so being children of wrath; but
we were by nature originally "children of wrath," and so consequently
had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires. "Nature," in
Greek, implies that which has grown in us as the peculiarity of
our being, growing with our growth, and strengthening with our
strength, as distinguished from that which has been wrought on us by
mere external influences: what is inherent, not acquired
An incidental proof of the doctrine of original sin.
children of wrath--not merely "sons," as in the Greek,
"sons of disobedience"
but "children" by generation; not merely by adoption, as
"sons" might be. The Greek order more emphatically marks this
innate corruption: "Those who in their (very) nature are children of
"grace" is opposed to "nature" here; and salvation (implied in
Eph 2:5, 8,
"saved") to "wrath." Compare Article IX, Church of England Common
Prayer Book. "Original sin (birth-sin), standeth not in the
following of Adam, but is the fault and corruption of the nature of
every man, naturally engendered of Adam [Christ was
supernaturally conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin],
whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his
own nature inclined to evil; and therefore, in every person born into
this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation." Paul shows that
even the Jews, who boasted of their birth from Abraham, were by natural
birth equally children of wrath as the Gentiles, whom the Jews despised
on account of their birth from idolaters
(Ro 3:9; 5:12-14).
"Wrath abideth" on all who disobey the Gospel in faith and
The phrase, "children of wrath," is a Hebraism, that is, objects of
God's wrath from childhood, in our natural state, as being born in the
sin which God hates. So "son of death"
Margin); "son of perdition"
as others--Greek, "as the rest" of mankind are
4. God, who is rich--Greek "(as) being rich in mercy."
for--that is, "because of His great love." This was the special ground of God's saving us; as "rich in mercy" (compare
Ro 2:4; 10:12)
was the general ground. "Mercy takes away misery; love
confers salvation" [BENGEL].
5. dead in sins--The best reading is in the Greek, "dead in our (literally, 'the') trespasses."
quickened--"vivified" spiritually, and consequences hereafter,
corporally. There must be a spiritual resurrection of the soul before
there can be a comfortable resurrection of the body
(Joh 11:25, 26;
together with Christ--The Head being seated at God's right hand,
the body also sits there with Him [CHRYSOSTOM].
We are already seated there IN Him ("in Christ
and hereafter shall be seated by Him; IN
Him already as in our Head, which is the ground of our hope; by
Him hereafter, as by the conferring cause, when hope shall be swallowed
up in fruition [PEARSON]. What God wrought in
Christ, He wrought (by the very fact) in all united to Christ, and one
by grace ye are saved--Greek, "Ye are in a saved state." Not
merely "ye are being saved," but ye "are passed from death unto life"
Salvation is to the Christian not a thing to be waited for hereafter,
but already realized
The parenthetic introduction of this clause here (compare
is a burst of Paul's feeling, and in order to make the Ephesians feel
that grace from first to last is the sole source of salvation;
hence, too, he says "ye," not "we."
6. raised us up together--with Christ. The "raising up" presupposes
previous quickening of Jesus in the tomb, and of us in the grave of our
made us sit together--with Christ, namely, in His ascension. Believers
are bodily in heaven in point of right, and virtually so in spirit, and
have each their own place assigned there, which in due time they shall
take possession of
(Php 3:20, 21).
He does not say, "on the right hand of God"; a prerogative
reserved to Christ peculiarly; though they shall share His throne
in Christ Jesus--Our union with Him is the ground of our present
spiritual, and future bodily, resurrection and ascension. "Christ Jesus"
is the phrase mostly used in this Epistle, in which the office of
the Christ, the Anointed Prophet, Priest and King, is the prominent
thought; when the Person is prominent, "Jesus Christ" is the phrase
7. Greek, "That He might show forth (middle reflexive voice; for
His own glory,
Eph 1:6, 12, 14)
in the ages which are coming on," that is, the blessed ages of
the Gospel which supersede "the age (Greek, for 'course')
of this world"
and the past "ages" from which the mystery was hidden
(Col 1:26, 27).
These good ages, though beginning with the first preaching of the
Gospel, and thenceforth continually succeeding one another, are
not consummated till the Lord's coming again (compare
The words, "coming on," do not exclude the time then present,
but imply simply the ages following upon Christ's "raising them
up together" spiritually
through Christ--rather, as Greek, "in Christ"; the same
expression as is so often repeated, to mark that all our blessings
center "IN HIM."
8. For--illustrating "the exceeding riches of His grace in
kindness." Translate as in
"Ye are in a saved state."
through faith--the effect of the power of Christ's resurrection
(Eph 1:19, 20;
whereby we are "raised together" with Him
Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "through your (literally,
'the') faith." The instrument or mean of salvation on the part
of the person saved; Christ alone is the meritorious agent.
and that--namely, the act of believing, or "faith." "Of
yourselves" stands in opposition to, "it is the gift of God"
"That which I have said, 'through faith,' I do not wish to be
understood so as if I excepted faith itself from grace"
[ESTIUS]. "God justifies the believing man, not
for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of Him in whom
he believes" [HOOKER]. The initiation, as well as
the increase, of faith, is from the Spirit of God, not only by an
external proposal of the word, but by internal illumination in the soul
[PEARSON]. Yet "faith" cometh by the means which
man must avail himself of, namely, "hearing the word of God"
though the blessing is wholly of God
(1Co 3:6, 7).
9. Not of works--This clause stands in contrast to "by grace," as is
Ro 4:4, 5; 11:6.
lest--rather, as Greek, "that no man should boast"
(Ro 3:27; 4:2).
10. workmanship--literally, "a thing of His making"; "handiwork."
Here the spiritual creation, not the physical, is referred to
(Eph 2:8, 9).
created--having been created
2Co 5:5, 17).
unto good works--"for good works." "Good works" cannot be performed
until we are new "created unto" them. Paul never calls the works of the
law "good works." We are not saved by, but created unto, good
before ordained--Greek, "before made ready" (compare
God marks out for each in His purposes beforehand, the particular good
works, and the time and way which tie sees best. God both makes ready
by His providence the opportunities for the works, and makes us
ready for their performance
that we should walk in them--not "be saved" by them. Works do not
justify, but the justified man works
11. The Greek order in the oldest manuscripts is, "That
in time past (literally, once) ye," &c. Such remembrance
sharpens gratitude and strengthens faith
Gentiles in the flesh--that is, Gentiles in respect to circumcision.
called Uncircumcision--The Gentiles were called (in contempt), and
were, the Uncircumcision; the Jews were called, but were not truly,
the Circumcision [ELLICOTT].
in the flesh made by hands--as opposed to the true "circumcision of
the heart in the Spirit, and not the letter"
"made without the hands in putting off the body of the sins of the
flesh by the circumcision of Christ"
12. without Christ--Greek, "separate from Christ"; having no
part in Him; far from Him. A different Greek word (aneu) would
be required to express, "Christ was not present with you"
aliens--Greek, "alienated from," not merely "separated
from." The Israelites were cut off from the commonwealth of God, but it
was as being self-righteous, indolent, and unworthy, not as
aliens and strangers [CHRYSOSTOM].
The expression, "alienated from," takes it for granted that the
Gentiles, before they had apostatized from the primitive truth, had
been sharers in light and life (compare
Eph 4:18, 23).
The hope of redemption through the Messiah, on their subsequent
apostasy, was embodied into a definite "commonwealth" or polity,
namely, that "of Israel," from which the Gentiles were alienated.
Eph 3:6; 4:4, 5,
with Ps 147:20.
covenants of promise--rather, ". . . of the promise," namely, "to
thee and thy seed will I give this land"
The plural implies the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, and with the whole people at Sinai
[ALFORD]. "The promise" is singular, to signify
that the covenant, in reality, and substantially, is one and the same
at all times, but only different in its accidents and external
"at sundry times and in divers manners").
having no . . . hope--beyond this life
The CONJECTURES of heathen philosophers as to a
future life were at best vague and utterly unsatisfactory. They had no
divine "promise," and therefore no sure ground of "hope." Epicurus and
Aristotle did not believe in it at all. The Platonists believed the
soul passed through perpetual changes, now happy, and then again
miserable; the Stoics, that it existed no longer than till the time of
the general burning up of all things.
without God--Greek, "atheists," that is, they had not
"God" in the sense we use the word, the Eternal Being who made and
governs all things (compare
"Turn from these vanities unto the living God who made heaven,
and earth, and the sea, and all things therein"), whereas the Jews had
distinct ideas of God and immortality. Compare also
"Ye knew not God . . . ye did service unto them which are no
So also pantheists are atheists, for an impersonal God is NO GOD, and an ideal immortality no immortality [THOLUCK].
in the world--in contrast to belonging to "the commonwealth of
Israel." Having their portion and their all in this godless vain world
from which Christ delivers His people
(Joh 15:19; 17:14;
13. now--in contrast to "at that time"
in Christ Jesus--"Jesus" is here added, whereas the expression before
had been merely "Christ," to mark that they know Christ as the
personal Saviour, "Jesus."
far off--the Jewish description of the Gentiles. Far off from God and
from the people of God
are--Greek, "have been."
by--Greek, "in." Thus "the blood of Christ" is made the seal of
a covenant IN which their nearness to God consists. In
where the blood is more directly spoken of as the instrument, it
is "through His blood" [ALFORD].
14. he--Greek, "Himself" alone, pre-eminently, and none else.
our peace--not merely "Peacemaker," but "Himself" the price of our
(Jews' and Gentiles' alike) peace with God, and so the bond of union
between "both" in God. He took both into Himself, and reconciled them,
united, to God, by His assuming our nature and our penal and legal
Isa 9:5, 6; 53:5;
His title, "Shiloh," means the same
the middle wall of partition--Greek, ". . . of
the partition" or "fence"; the middle wall which
parted Jew and Gentile. There was a balustrade of stone which
separated the court of the Gentiles from the holy place, which it was
death for a Gentile to pass. But this, though incidentally alluded to,
was but a symbol of the partition itself, namely, "the enmity"
between "both" and God
the real cause of separation from God, and so the mediate cause of
their separation from one another. Hence there was a twofold wall of
partition, one the inner wall, severing the Jewish people from entrance
to the holy part of the temple where the priests officiated, the other
the outer wall, separating the Gentile proselytes from access to the
court of the Jews (compare
Thus this twofold wall represented the Sinaitic law, which both
severed all men, even the Jews, from access to God (through sin, which
is the violation of the law), and also separated the Gentiles from the
Jews. As the term "wall" implies the strength of the partition,
so "fence" implies that it was easily removed by God when the due time
15. Rather, make "enmity" an apposition to "the middle wall of
partition"; "Hath broken down the middle wall of partition
(not merely as English Version, 'between us,' but also
between all men and God), to wit, the enmity
by His flesh" (compare
the law of commandments contained in--Greek, "the law of the
commandments (consisting) in ordinances." This law was "the partition"
or "fence," which embodied the expression of the "enmity" (the "wrath"
of God against our sin, and our enmity to Him,
(Ro 4:15; 5:20; 7:10, 11; 8:7).
Christ has in, or by, His crucified flesh, abolished it, so far as its
condemning and enmity-creating power is concerned
substituting for it the law of love, which is the everlasting spirit of
the law, and which flows from the realization in the soul of His love
in His death for us. Translate what follows, "that He might make the
two (Jews and Gentiles) into one new man." Not that He might merely
reconcile the two to each other, but incorporate the two, reconciled in
Him to God, into one new man; the old man to which both belonged, the
enemy of God, having been slain in His flesh on the cross. Observe,
too, ONE new man; we are all in God's sight but one in Christ, as we
are but one in Adam [ALFORD].
making peace--primarily between all and God, secondarily between Jews
and Gentiles; He being "our peace." This "peace-making" precedes its
16. Translate, "might altogether reconcile them both in one body (the
unto God through His cross." The Greek for "reconcile"
(apocatalaxe), found only here and in
expresses not only a return to favor with one (catallage), but so to
lay aside enmity that complete amity follows; to pass from enmity to
complete reconciliation [TITTMANN].
slain the enmity--namely, that had been between man and God; and so
that between Jew and Gentile which had resulted from it. By His being
slain, He slew it (compare
thereby--Greek, "therein"; "in" or "by the cross," that is, His
17. Translate, "He came and announced glad tidings of peace." "He came"
of His own free love, and "announced peace" with His own mouth to the
Joh 20:19, 21, 26);
and by them to others, through His Spirit present in His Church
is strictly parallel; after His resurrection "He showed light to the
people ('them that were nigh') and to the Gentiles ('you that were afar
off')," by His Spirit in His ministers (compare
and to them--The oldest manuscripts insert "peace" again: "And peace
to them." The repetition implies the joy with which both alike would
dwell again and again upon the welcome word "peace." So
18. Translate, "For it is through Him
that we have our access
both of us, in (that is, united in, that is, "by,"
Greek) one Spirit to the Father," namely, as our common Father,
reconciled to both alike; whence flows the removal of all separation
between Jew and Gentile. The oneness of "the Spirit," through
which we both have our access, is necessarily followed by
oneness of the body, the Church
The distinctness of persons in the Divine Trinity appears in this
verse. It is also fatal to the theory of sacerdotal priests in the
Gospel through whom alone the people can approach God. All alike,
people and ministers, can draw nigh to God through Christ, their ever
19. Now, therefore--rather, "So then" [ALFORD].
foreigners--rather, "sojourners"; opposed to "members of the
household," as "strangers" is to "fellow citizens."
Php 3:19, 20,
"conversation," Greek, "citizenship."
but--The oldest manuscripts add, "are."
with the saints--"the commonwealth of (spiritual) Israel"
CHRIST appears in
and THE SPIRIT in
20. Translate as Greek, "Built up upon," &c. (participle;
having been built up upon; omit, therefore, "and are"). Compare
1Co 3:11, 12.
The same image in
recurs in his address to the Ephesian elders
and in his Epistle to Timothy at Ephesus
naturally suggested by the splendid architecture of Diana's temple; the
glory of the Christian temple is eternal and real, not mere idolatrous
gaud. The image of a building is appropriate also to the
Jew-Christians; as the temple at Jerusalem was the stronghold of
Judaism; as Diana's temple, of paganism.
foundation of the apostles, &c.--that is, upon their ministry and
living example (compare
Christ Himself, the only true Foundation, was the grand subject of
their ministry, and spring of their life. As one with Him and His
fellow workers, they, too, in a secondary sense, are called
The "prophets" are joined with them closely; for the expression is here
not "foundations of the apostles and the prophets," but
"foundations of the apostles and prophets." For the
doctrine of both was essentially one
(1Pe 1:10, 11;
The apostles take the precedency
Thus he appropriately shows regard to the claims of the Jews and
Gentiles: "the prophets" representing the old Jewish dispensation, "the
apostles" the new. The "prophets" of the new also are included. BENGEL and ALFORD refer the meaning
solely to these
(Eph 3:5; 4:11).
These passages imply, I think, that the New Testament prophets are not
excluded; but the apostle's plain reference to
"the head stone of the corner," proves that the Old Testament prophets
are a prominent thought. David is called a "prophet" in
another prophet present to the mind of Paul, which prophecy leans on
the earlier one of Jacob
The sense of the context, too, suits this: Ye were once aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel (in the time of her Old Testament
prophets), but now ye are members of the true Israel, built upon
the foundation of her New Testament apostles and Old Testament
prophets. Paul continually identifies his teaching with that of
Israel's old prophets
(Ac 26:22; 28:23).
The costly foundation-stones of the temple
typified the same truth (compare
The same stone is at once the corner-stone and the foundation-stone on
which the whole building rests. Paul supposes a stone or rock so large
and so fashioned as to be both at once; supporting the whole as the
foundation, and in part rising up at the extremities, so as to admit of
the side walls meeting in it, and being united in it as the
corner-stone [ZANCHIUS]. As the corner-stone, it
is conspicuous, as was Christ
and coming in men's way may be stumbled over, as the Jews did at Christ
21. In whom--as holding together the whole.
fitly framed--so as exactly to fit together.
groweth--"is growing" continually. Here an additional thought is
added to the image; the Church has the growth of a living organism,
not the mere increase of a building. Compare
"lively stones . . . built up a spiritual house."
"The Branch shall build the temple of the Lord," where
similarly the growth of a branch, and the building of a temple, are
holy--as being the "habitation of God"
So "in the Lord" (Christ) answers to "through the Spirit"
Eph 3:16, 17).
"Christ is the inclusive Head of all the building, the element in which
it has its being and now its growth" [ALFORD].
22. are builded together--Translate, "are being builded together."
through--Greek, "in the Spirit." God, by His
Spirit in believers, has them for His habitation
(1Co 3:16, 17; 6:19;