SUMMARY.--Our Spiritual Condition in a State of Nature. God's Saving Mercy. Salvation by Grace Through Faith. No Longer Aliens and Strangers. Peace Between Jew and Gentile Through Christ. All Built into the Lord's Holy Temple.
1-3. And you hath he quickened. In the closing part of chapter 1 Paul has described the mighty working of the Divine power in raising Christ from the dead, and his exaltation to the right hand of God. He now turns from this mighty exhibition of power to another not less striking--the resurrection of those who were spiritually dead to a new and holy life. Dead in trespasses and sins. Spiritual death is meant. By their trespasses and sins they were separated from God. To be without God is to be in death. Trespasses are thought to refer to breaking known laws; sins, to the corrupt state which leads to a constantly sinful life. 2. According to the course of this world. You lived in trespasses and sins, in accordance with the spirit of the world. The prince of the power of the air. Called elsewhere the prince of this world, Satan. Why he is called "prince of the power of the air" is not certain; various explanations are given. Probably his subtle influences and whisperings pervade the air, and come upon us as unconsciously as the vital fluid we breathe. The Jews held that the atmosphere was the abode of evil angels. The spirit that now worketh. This spirit, that of the world, of the power of the air, is the one which inspires those who live in disobedience. 3. Among whom also we all had our conversation. In verses 1 and 2 the second person is used, meaning the Ephesians; here the person is changed to the first. Meyer thinks that "ye" refers to Gentile Christians; "we" to Paul and his Jewish brethren. The Gentile Christians had been dead in trespasses and sins; nor had the Jewish Christians differed in this respect. Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Not only fleshly desires, but the impulses of a sinful mind, such as malice, envy, pride, etc. And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. This declares that "we," now Jewish Christians, were once, when in a state of nature, under condemnation, just as the "others," the rest of the world, or the Gentiles. Some have held that this passage teaches innate, hereditary depravity. I am sure that this was not in the apostle's mind. (1) Two classes are spoken of, "you" and "we," Gentiles and Jews. (2) Both were equally sinful, the first "dead in trespasses and in sins," and the second "by nature the children of wrath, even as the others." (3) The passage then simply affirms that Jews and Gentiles alike, before conversion, were dead in trespasses and sins, and under the divine condemnation. However, "by nature" is supposed to teach that the depravity is innate, and that all are born under the wrath of God. Such an interpretation would put the passage in conflict with Paul's teaching elsewhere, and with that of Christ. For instance, Matt. 18:3 and 19:14 are inconsistent with the view that little children are born "under the wrath of God." Indeed, it is taught in this passage that both classes have been brought into this state of condemnation by walking in sin, not by their birth. But does not by nature imply that they are born "children of wrath?" The word rendered "by nature," is found in Rom. 2:14; 1 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 2:15; Gal. 4:8. In only one of these passages can it refer to natural birth at all, and there it refers to race (Gal. 2:15). In not one passage does it describe what is innate. It does describe custom, practice, and unconverted state. No one would say that the Gentiles, who "do by nature the things of the law," do so because it is innate. It means that they do so without the revelation. In a similar sense it is used here, and means that "we," as well as others, before we were converted by the gospel, were dwelling in sin like others, and were like them, "the children of wrath." The state of nature is the unconverted state.
4-7. Having shown that both Jews and Gentiles were spiritually dead, Paul now declares the spiritual resurrection of the saints. This lifting up from death to a new life is due to God, rich in mercy, and on account of the great love wherewith he loved us. The next verse affirms the fact. 5. Hath quickened us together with Christ. As he quickened Christ and raised him, so when we were dead in sins he gave us spiritual life by the gospel and lifted us to a new life. "We were planted in the likeness of his death and resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). By grace ye are saved. Not by works of the law, as he has shown so fully in the Galatian letter. 6. And hath raised us up together. Buried into the death of Christ, we are risen with Christ (Col. 2:12). We are risen as new creatures to walk with the Risen Christ, with our minds on heavenly things (Col. 3:1). To sit in heavenly places. In our present state, to have our minds above (Col. 3:2). 7. That in the ages to come. In all coming time. The exceeding riches of his grace. In saving, purifying and blessing his children.
8-10. For by grace are ye saved through faith. Lest they might forget the doctrine that he ever preached, he reminds them that works of the law never saved them; that they were saved by God's grace shown in the gospel; that this salvation was obtained through the faith. The definite article is found before faith in the Greek, showing that the faith, or the gospel, is meant. It is the gift of God. The salvation is not due to ourselves, but is God's gift. The grammatical construction of the Greek does not allow us to make "faith" the subject of the last clause. It is not "faith," but salvation through the faith, which is the gift of God. So says John Wesley in his Notes: "This refers to the previous clause, That you are saved, etc." 9. Not of works. The salvation is not due to works of law, or to our own merit; hence there is no ground for boasting. 10. For we are his workmanship. It is God who saved us; as new creatures, he had made us through the gospel. We are not saved by works, but are his workmanship, created unto good works, designed henceforth to abound in them. Which God hath before ordained. It is his ordination that all who believe the gospel and are saved should practice good works. God has graciously quickened us, saved us, made us new creatures, and prepared us unto good works.
11-13. Wherefore remember. Remembrance of all that God had done
would awake gratitude.
The Uncircumcision. Gentiles were so called by the Jews, who were
In the flesh. There was a circumcision not in the flesh, not made
with hands, but of the Spirit, and in the heart
(Rom. 2:28, 29).
12. Without Christ. The past state of the Gentile Christians is
described when they had no knowledge of Christ.
Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Not being of the race of
Abraham, who were in covenant relation with God.
Strangers from the covenants. The various covenants made with
the patriarchs which contained the promise of Christ, of which they
were ignorant, and hence not partakers of the hope.
Having no hope. No hope in the promise or in Christ. Without God. Walking without the knowledge of the true God. 13. But now in Christ Jesus. Once so far off, separated from God, they have been brought nigh, and the means that brought them is the blood of Christ.
14-18. For he is our peace. It is the Crucified Christ that brought you nigh, for he, he only, is our peace. The creator of peace between Jew and Gentile; between alienated man and God. Who hath made both one. Jew and Gentile one. The old distinctions are destroyed. All are on the same footing before God. Hath broken down, etc. Having broken down, or ended, the law of Moses which built up a wall between the Jews and Gentiles. 15. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity. While he was in the flesh the law condemned him and nailed him to the cross. In so doing it destroyed itself. The old covenant ended at the cross, when the new covenant was dedicated by the blood of Christ. Hence, the law, the wall between Jew and Gentile, "the enmity," was taken away. To make in himself of twain one. Thus, the difference between Jew and Gentile being destroyed, both are made in the church one new race, "a royal priesthood, a chosen nation, a peculiar people," at peace among themselves. 16. That he might reconcile both to God. First, the cross makes peace between Jew and Gentile; and second, the blood of the cross cleanses both before God, and makes peace between them and God. Having slain the enmity. Not only of Jew for Gentile, but of the sinner for God. When the sinner once fixes his mind on the bleeding Savior, the "goodness of God leads him to repentance." 17. Preached peace . . . afar off . . . were nigh. The Gentiles were "afar off;" the Jews, "nigh." To both Christ preached with each other and with God. 18. We both have access by one Spirit. The Spirit of adoption enables both to cry, "Abba, Father." Both pray to one Father; hence, all are brethren.
19-22. Therefore ye are no more strangers. Gentiles have been brought nigh, and are fellow-citizens of the kingdom of God with the saints. 20. Built upon the foundation. They have been built into the temple of the Lord. The word of God, declared by apostles and prophets, is the foundation of their faith, Christ being the chief corner-stone. The corner-stone was a stone of double size at the corner, which became a part of both walls and joined them together. So he had joined the Jews and Gentiles in the building. He is the foundation-stone on which the building rests, and the stone of union. Compare Isaiah 28:16; Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7. 21. In whom. In Christ himself. All the building fitly framed together. The several parts, or buildings, are united in him, so as to form one holy temple. That is, all races, Jews and Gentiles, are compacted in one church. 22. In whom ye also. The Ephesian Christians. For a habitation of God. The Shekinah descended and dwelt in the tabernacle between the cherubim; but God, by means of the Spirit, dwells in the spiritual temple, in the hearts of believers. This temple is composed of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), has a holy priesthood, and spiritual sacrifices.