Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
REVEALED BY THE
PRAYER THAT BY THE
DIVISION OF THE
As the first chapter treated of
FATHER'S office; and the second,
SON'S, so this, that of
1. of Jesus Christ--Greek, "Christ Jesus." The
office is the prominent thought in the latter arrangement; the
person, in the former. He here marks the Messiahship of
"Christ," maintained by him as the origin of his being a "prisoner,"
owing to the jealousy of the Jews being roused at his preaching it to
the Gentiles. His very bonds were profitable to ("for" or "in
behalf of you") Gentiles
He digresses at "For this cause," and does not complete the sentence
which he had intended, until
where he resumes the words, "For this cause," namely, because I know
this your call of God as Gentiles
to be "fellow-heirs" with the Jews
"I bow my knees to" the Father of our common Saviour
(Eph 3:14, 15)
to confirm you in the faith by His Spirit. "I Paul," expresses the
agent employed by the Spirit to enlighten them, after he had been first
enlightened himself by the same Spirit
(Eph 3:3-5, 9).
2. If--The Greek does not imply doubt: "Assuming (what I
know to be the fact, namely) that ye have heard," &c. "If, as I
presume," The indicative in the Greek shows that no doubt is
implied: "Seeing that doubtless," &c. He by this phrase delicately
reminds them of their having heard from himself, and probably from
others subsequently, the fact. See
showing that these words do not disprove the address of this Epistle
to the Ephesians. Compare
the dispensation--"The office of dispensing, as a steward, the grace
of God which was (not 'is') given me to you-ward," namely, to dispense
3. he made known--The oldest manuscripts read, "That by revelation
was the mystery (namely, of the admission of the Gentiles,
Eph 3:6; 1:9)
made known unto me
as I wrote afore--namely, in this Epistle
(Eph 1:9, 10),
the words of which he partly repeats.
4. understand my knowledge--"perceive my understanding"
"intelligence." "When ye read," implies that, deep as are the mysteries
of this Epistle, the way for all to understand them is to read it
(2Ti 3:15, 16).
By perceiving his understanding of the mysteries, they, too,
will be enabled to understand.
the mystery of Christ--The "mystery" is Christ Himself, once hidden,
but now revealed
5. in other ages--Greek, "generations."
not made known--He does not say, "has not been revealed." Making
known by revelation is the source of making known by preaching
[BENGEL]. The former was vouchsafed only to the prophets, in order that
they might make known the truth so revealed to men in general.
unto the sons of men--men in their state by birth, as contrasted with
those illuminated "by the Spirit" (Greek, "IN the Spirit," compare
as--The mystery of the call of the Gentiles (of which Paul speaks here)
was not unknown to the Old Testament prophets
(Isa 56:6, 7; 49:6).
But they did not know it with the same explicit distinctness "As" it
has been now known
(Ac 10:19, 20; 11:18-21).
They probably did not know that the Gentiles were to be admitted
without circumcision or that they were to be on a level with the Jews
in partaking of the grace of God. The gift of "the Spirit" in its
fulness was reserved for the New Testament that Christ might thereby be
glorified. The epithet, "holy," marks the special consecration of the
New Testament "prophets" (who are here meant) by the Spirit, compared
with which even the Old Testament prophets were but "sons of men"
6. Translate, "That the Gentiles are," &c. "and
fellow members of the same body, and fellow partakers of the
(so the oldest manuscripts read, not 'HIS')
promise, in Christ Jesus
(added in the oldest manuscripts), through the Gospel." It is "in
Christ Jesus" that they are made "fellow heirs" in the inheritance of
GOD: "of the same body" under the Head,
JESUS; and "fellow
partakers of the promise" in the communion of
The Trinity is thus alluded to, as often elsewhere in this Epistle
(Eph 2:19, 20, 22).
7. Whereof--"of which" Gospel.
according to--in consequence of, and in accordance with, "the gift of
the grace of God."
given--"which (gift of grace) was given to me by
(Greek, 'according to,' as in
Eph 3:20; 1:19:
as the result of, and in proportion to) the effectual working
(Greek, 'energy,' or 'in-working') of His power."
8. am--Not merely was I in times past, but I still am the least
worthy of so high an office (compare
least of all saints--not merely "of all apostles"
(1Co 15:9, 10).
is--Greek, "has been given."
among--omitted in the oldest manuscripts Translate, "to announce to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the unsearchable
riches," namely, of Christ's grace
(Eph 1:7; 2:7).
"unsearchable" as a mine inexhaustible, whose treasures can never be
(Eph 3:18, 19).
9. to make all men see--Greek, "to enlighten all"
fellowship--The oldest manuscripts read, "economy," or "dispensation"
Col 1:25, 26;
and see on
above). "To make all see how it hath seemed good to God at this time to
dispense (through me and others, His stewards) what
heretofore was a mystery." ELLICOTT explains it,
"the arrangement," or "regulation" of the mystery (the union of Jews
and Gentiles in Christ) which was now to be humbly traced and
acknowledged in the fact of its having secretly existed in the counsel
of God, and now having been revealed to the heavenly powers by means of
from the beginning of the world--Greek, "from (the beginning of)
the ages." Compare
The "ages" are the vast successive periods of time, marked by
successive stages of creation and orders of beings.
in God--"hidden in" His counsels
created all things by Jesus Christ--God's creation of the world and
all things therein is the foundation of the rest of the "economy," which
is freely dispensed according to the universal power of God
AS God created "the whole range of things" (so the Greek), physical
and spiritual alike, He must have an absolute right to adjust all things
as He will. Hence, we may see His right to keep the mystery of
world-wide salvation in Christ "hidden in Himself," till his own good
time for revealing it. The oldest manuscripts omit "by Jesus Christ."
10. The design of God in giving Paul grace to proclaim to the Gentiles
the mystery of salvation heretofore hidden.
now--first: opposed to "hidden from the beginning of the world"
unto the principalities and--Greek adds "the"
powers--unto the various orders of good angels primarily, as these
dwell "in the heavenly places" in the highest sense; "known" to their
Secondarily, God's wisdom in redemption is made known to evil
angels, who dwell "in heavenly places" in a lower sense, namely, the
with Eph 6:12);
"known" to their dismay
might be known--Translate, "may be known."
by the church--"by means of," or "through the Church," which is the
"theater" for the display of God's manifold wisdom
"a spectacle (Greek, 'theater') to angels." Hence, angels are
but our "fellow servants"
manifold wisdom--though essentially one, as Christ is one, yet varying
the economy in respect to places, times, and persons
(Isa 55:8, 9;
"stewards of the manifold grace of God." Man cannot understand aright
its single acts till he can survey them as a connected whole
The call of the Church is no haphazard remedy, or afterthought, but
part of the eternal scheme, which, amidst manifold varieties of
dispensation, is one in its end.
11. which he purposed--Greek, "made."
ELLICOTT translates, "wrought."
12. Translate, "our boldness and our access
in confidence through our faith in Him." ALFORD quotes as an instance,
&c. "THE access" (Greek) implies the
formal introduction into the presence of a monarch.
13. "I entreat you not to be dispirited."
for you--in your behalf.
which is--rather, "which are your glory," namely,
inasmuch as showing that God loved you so much, as both to give His Son
for you, and to permit His apostles to suffer "tribulations" for you
[CHRYSOSTOM] in preaching the Gospel to the
Gentiles. See on
"prisoner for you Gentiles." My tribulations are your spiritual
"glory," as your faith is furthered thereby
14. For this cause--Resuming the thread of
"For this cause." Because ye have such a standing in God's Church
bow my knees--the proper attitude in humble prayer. Posture affects
the mind, and is not therefore unimportant. See Paul's practice
and that of the Lord Himself on earth
unto the Father--The oldest manuscripts omit "of our Lord Jesus
Christ." But Vulgate and some very old authorities retain them:
"From whom," in either case, refers to "the Father" (Patera), as
"family" (patria, akin in sound and etymology) plainly refers to
Him. Still the foundation of all sonship is in Jesus Christ.
15. the whole family--ALFORD, MIDDLETON, and others translate, "every family": alluding
to the several families in heaven and in earth supposed to exist
[THEOPHYLACT, Æcumenius, in SUICER, 2.633], the apostle thus being supposed to imply
that God, in His relation of Father to us His adopted children, is the
great prototype of the paternal relation wherever found. But the idea
that "the holy angels are bound up in spiritual families or
compaternities," is nowhere else in Scripture referred to. And
where the article is similarly omitted, and yet the translation is,
"All the house of Israel," shows that in New Testament
Greek the translation is justifiable, "all the family,"
or "the whole family": which accords with Scripture views, that
angels and men, the saints militant and those with God, are one holy
family joined under the one Father in Christ, the mediator between
heaven and earth
Hence angels are termed our "brethren"
and "sons of God" by creation, as we are by adoption
The Church is part of the grand family, or kingdom, which comprehends,
besides men, the higher spiritual world, where the archetype, to the
realization of which redeemed man is now tending, is already realized.
This universal idea of the "kingdom" of God as one divine community, is
presented to us in the Lord's Prayer. By sin men were estranged, not
only from God, but from that higher spiritual world in which the
kingdom of God is already realized. As Christ when He reconciled men to
God, united them to one another in a divine community (joined to
Himself, the one Head), breaking down the partition wall between Jew
so also He joins them in communion with all those who have already
attained that perfection in the kingdom of God, to which the Church on
earth is aspiring
is named--derives its origin and its name as sons of God. To
be named, and to be, are one with God. To bear God's name is to
belong to God as His own peculiar people
Isa 43:7; 44:5;
Ro 9:25, 26).
16. according to--that is in abundance consonant to the riches of
His glory; not "according to" the narrowness of our hearts.
"Strengthened with all might according to His glorious power."
by--Greek, "through"; "by means of His Spirit."
in--The Greek implies, "infused into."
the inner man--
(Eph 4:22, 24;
"the hidden man of the heart." Not predicated of unbelievers, whose
inward and outward man alike are carnal. But in believers, the "inner
(new) man," their true self, stands in contrast to their old man, which
is attached to them as a body of death daily being mortified, but not
their true self.
17. That--So that.
dwell--abidingly make His abode
Where the Spirit is there Christ is
(Joh 14:16, 18).
by faith--Greek, "through faith," which opens the
door of the heart to Jesus
It is not enough that He be on the tongue, or flit through the brain:
the heart is His proper seat [CALVIN]. "You being
rooted and grounded in love" (compare
is in the Greek connected with this clause, not with the clause,
"that ye may be able to comprehend." "Rooted" is an image from a
tree; "grounded" (Greek, "founder," "having your
foundations resting on"), from a building (compare
Notes,, see on
Col 1:23; 2:7).
Mt 13:6, 21.
"Love," the first-fruit of the Spirit, flowing from Christ's love
realized in the soul, was to be the basis on which should rest their
further comprehension of all the vastness of Christ's love.
18. May be able--even still further. Greek, "May be
breadth . . . length . . . depth . . . height--namely, the full
dimensions of the spiritual temple, answering to "the fulness of God"
to which the Church, according to its capacity, ought to correspond
Eph 4:10, 13)
as to "the fulness of Christ." The "breadth" implies Christ's
world-wide love, embracing all men: the "length," its being extended
through all ages
the "depth," its profound wisdom which no creature can fathom
the "height," its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us of
[BENGEL]. I prefer to understand "the breadth,"
&c., to refer to the whole of the vast mystery of free salvation in
Christ for all, Gentile and Jew alike, of which Paul had been
and of which he now prays they may have a fuller comprehension. As
subsidiary to this, and the most essential part of it, he adds, "and to
know the love of Christ"
GROTIUS understands depth and height
of God's goodness raising us from the lowest depression to the greatest
19. passeth--surpasseth, exceeds. The paradox "to know
. . . which passeth knowledge," implies that when he says
"know," he does not mean that we can adequately know; all we
know is, that His love exceeds far our knowledge of it, and with even
our fresh accessions of knowledge hereafter, will still exceed them.
Even as God's power exceeds our thoughts
filled with--rather, as Greek, "filled even unto all the
fulness of God" (this is the grand goal), that is, filled, each
according to your capacity, with the divine wisdom, knowledge, and love;
"even as God is full," and as Christ who dwells in your hearts, hath
"all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily"
20. unto him--contrasted with ourselves and our needs. Translate, "that is able above all things (what is above all things) to
do exceeding abundantly above what we ask or (even) think": thought takes a wider range than prayers. The word, above, occurs thrice
as often in Paul's writings, as in all the rest of the New Testament,
showing the warm exuberance of Paul's spirit.
according to the power--the indwelling Spirit
He appeals to their and his experience.
21. Translate, "Unto Him be the glory (that is, the whole
glory of the gracious dispensation of salvation just spoken of) in the
Church (as the theater for the manifestation of the glory,
in Christ Jesus (as in Him all the glory centers,
to all the generations of eternal ages," literally, "of the age of the
ages." Eternity is conceived as consisting of "ages" (these again
consisting of "generations") endlessly succeeding one another.