The apostle sets forth his office, and his qualifications for it, and his call to it. (1-7) Also the noble purposes answered by it. (8-12) He prays for the Ephesians. (13-19) And adds a thanksgiving. (20,21)
Verses 1-7 For having preached the doctrine of truth, the apostle was a prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ; the object of special protection and care, while thus suffering for him. All the gracious offers of the gospel, and the joyful tidings it contains, come from the rich grace of God; it is the great means by which the Spirit works grace in the souls of men. The mystery, is that secret, hidden purpose of salvation through Christ. This was not so fully and clearly shown in the ages before Christ, as unto the prophets of the New Testament. This was the great truth made known to the apostle, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ. An effectual working of Divine power attends the gifts of Divine grace. As God appointed Paul to the office, so he qualified him for it.
Verses 8-12 Those whom God advances to honourable employments, he makes low in their own eyes; and where God gives grace to be humble, there he gives all other needful grace. How highly he speaks of Jesus Christ; the unsearchable riches of Christ! Though many are not enriched with these riches; yet how great a favour to have them preached among us, and to have an offer of them! And if we are not enriched with them it is our own fault. The first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures by converting grace, are of God by Jesus Christ. His riches are as unsearchable and as sure as ever, yet while angels adore the wisdom of God in the redemption of his church, the ignorance of self-wise and carnal men deems the whole to be foolishness.
Verses 13-19 The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?
Verses 20-21 It is proper always to end prayers with praises. Let us expect more, and ask for more, encouraged by what Christ has already done for our souls, being assured that the conversion of sinners, and the comfort of believers, will be to his glory, for ever and ever.
Ephesians 3:1-21 . HIS APOSTOLIC OFFICE TO MAKE KNOWN THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST REVEALED BY THE SPIRIT: PRAYER THAT BY THE SAME SPIRIT THEY MAY COMPREHEND THE VAST LOVE OF CHRIST: DOXOLOGY ENDING THIS DIVISION OF THE EPISTLE.
As the first chapter treated of THE FATHER'S office; and the second, THE SON'S, so this, that of THE SPIRIT.
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 ( Ephesians 3:13 , 2 Timothy 2:10 ). He digresses at "For this cause," and does not complete the sentence which he had intended, until Ephesians 3:14 , where he resumes the words, "For this cause," namely, because I know this your call of God as Gentiles ( Ephesians 2:11-22 ), to be "fellow heirs" with the Jews ( Ephesians 3:6 ), "I bow my knees to" the Father of our common Saviour ( Ephesians 3:14 Ephesians 3:15 ) 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 ( Ephesians 3:3-5 Ephesians 3:9 ).
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. do not disprove the address of this Epistle to the Ephesians. Compare Acts 20:17-24 .
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 to you.
3. he made known--The oldest manuscripts read, "That by revelation was the mystery (namely, of the admission of the Gentiles, Ephesians 3:6 , 1:9 ) made known unto me ( Galatians 1:12 )."
as I wrote afore--namely, in this Epistle ( Ephesians 1:9 Ephesians 1:10 ), the words of which he partly repeats.
4. understand my knowledge--"perceive my understanding" [ALFORD], or "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 ( 2 Timothy 3:15 2 Timothy 3:16 ). 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 ( Colossians 1:27 ).
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 Revelation 1:10 ), Matthew 16:17 .
as--The mystery of the call of the Gentiles (of which Paul speaks here) was not unknown to the Old Testament prophets ( Isaiah 56:6 Isaiah 56:7 , 49:6 ). But they did not know it with the same explicit distinctness "As" it has been now known ( Acts 10:19 Acts 10:20 , 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" ( Ezekiel 2:3 , and elsewhere).
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, CHRIST JESUS; and "fellow partakers of the promise" in the communion of THE HOLY SPIRIT ( Ephesians 1:13 , Hebrews 6:4 ). The Trinity is thus alluded to, as often elsewhere in this Epistle ( Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:20 Ephesians 2:22 ).
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 Ephesians 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 1 Timothy 1:15 , end).
least of all saints--not merely "of all apostles" ( 1 Corinthians 15:9 1 Corinthians 15:10 ).
is--Greek, "has been given."
among--omitted in the oldest manuscripts Translate, "to announce to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the unsearchable ( Job 5:9 ) riches," namely, of Christ's grace ( Ephesians 1:7 , 2:7 ). Romans 11:33 , "unsearchable" as a mine inexhaustible, whose treasures can never be fully explored ( Ephesians 3:18 Ephesians 3:19 ).
9. to make all men see--Greek, "to enlighten all" ( Ephesians 1:18 , Psalms 18:28 , Hebrews 6:4 ). "All" (compare Colossians 1:28 ).
fellowship--The oldest manuscripts read, "economy," or "dispensation" (compare Colossians 1:25 Colossians 1:26 ; and 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 the Church.
from the beginning of the world--Greek, "from (the beginning of) the ages." Compare Ephesians 1:4 , Romans 16:25 , 1 Corinthians 2:7 . 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 ( Ephesians 1:9 ).
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 [BENGEL]. 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" ( Ephesians 3:5 ).
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 adoring joy ( 1 Timothy 3:16 , 1 Peter 1:12 ). Secondarily, God's wisdom in redemption is made known to evil angels, who dwell "in heavenly places" in a lower sense, namely, the air (compare Ephesians 2:2 with Ephesians 6:12 ); "known" to their dismay ( 1 Corinthians 15:24 , Colossians 2:15 ).
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 ( Luke 15:10 , 1 Corinthians 4:9 ): "a spectacle (Greek, 'theater') to angels." Hence, angels are but our "fellow servants" ( Revelation 19:10 ).
manifold wisdom--though essentially one, as Christ is one, yet varying the economy in respect to places, times, and persons ( Isaiah 55:8 Isaiah 55:9 , Hebrews 1:1 ). Compare 1 Peter 4:10 , "stewards of the manifold grace of God." Man cannot understand aright its single acts till he can survey them as a connected whole ( 1 Corinthians 13:12 ). 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 ( Ephesians 2:18 ) in confidence through our faith in Him." ALFORD quotes as an instance, Romans 8:38 , &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. for you Gentiles." My tribulations are your spiritual "glory," as your faith is furthered thereby ( 1 Corinthians 4:10 ).
14. For this cause--Resuming the thread of Ephesians 3:1 , "For this cause." Because ye have such a standing in God's Church [ALFORD].
bow my knees--the proper attitude in humble prayer. Posture affects the mind, and is not therefore unimportant. See Paul's practice ( Acts 20:36 ); and that of the Lord Himself on earth ( Luke 22:41 ).
unto the Father--The oldest manuscripts omit "of our Lord Jesus Christ." But Vulgate and some very old authorities retain them: Ephesians 3:15 , "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 Acts 2:36 , 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 ( Ephesians 1:10 , Philippians 2:10 ). Hence angels are termed our "brethren" ( Revelation 19:10 ), and "sons of God" by creation, as we are by adoption ( Job 38:7 ). 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 and Gentile ( Ephesians 2:14 ), 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 ( Colossians 1:20 ) [NEANDER].
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 ( Numbers 6:27 , Isaiah 43:7 , 44:5 , Romans 9:25 Romans 9:26 ).
16. according to--that is in abundance consonant to the riches of His glory; not "according to" the narrowness of our hearts. Colossians 1:11 , "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--( Ephesians 4:22 Ephesians 4:24 , 1 Peter 3:4 ); "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 ( John 14:23 ). Where the Spirit is there Christ is ( John 14:16 John 14:18 ).
by faith--Greek, "through faith," which opens the door of the heart to Jesus ( John 3:20 ). 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 Ephesians 3:19 ), 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,, Colossians 1:23 , 2:7 ). Contrast Matthew 13:6 Matthew 13:21 . "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 fully able."
breadth . . . length . . . depth . . . height--namely, the full dimensions of the spiritual temple, answering to "the fulness of God" ( Ephesians 3:19 ), to which the Church, according to its capacity, ought to correspond (compare Ephesians 4:10 Ephesians 4:13 ) 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 ( Ephesians 3:21 ); the "depth," its profound wisdom which no creature can fathom ( Romans 11:33 ); the "height," its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us of ( Ephesians 4:8 ) [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 speaking ( Ephesians 3:3-9 ), 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" ( Ephesians 3:19 ). GROTIUS understands depth and height of God's goodness raising us from the lowest depression to the greatest height.
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 ( Ephesians 3:20 ).
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" ( Colossians 2:9 ).
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 ( Romans 8:26 ). 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, Ephesians 3:10 ) in Christ Jesus (as in Him all the glory centers, Zechariah 6:13 ) 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.