Ephesians can be divided into two main parts: the first three chapters explicate Christian doctrine while the latter three chapters explain Christian duty. Chapters 1-3 put forth our riches in Christ; chapter 4-6 point to our responsibilities in Christ. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul begins to unpack the normal Christian life.
A United Walk (1-6)
Christians are to walk together with Christ in unity and peace.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
I…prisoner for the Lord: see 3.1. Literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Therefore points back to all that Paul has written concerning the rich salvation provided in Christ (chs. 1-3).
I…urge you…have been called: Paul earnestly requests his brethren to soberly consider their calling from God in Christ and walk accordingly. To walk in the NT typically has reference to the whole lifestyle of the person. So a worthy walk would be one in keeping with appropriate Christian behavior. This is similar to what Paul told the Corinthians: “Consider your calling” (1 Cor 1.26). Think about the “holy calling” (2 Tim 1.9) you have received of God. Earlier in Ephesians (1.18) we get a glimpse of this calling: the confident expectation that we are the glorious inheritance of God. Since this is such a high/holy calling, live a life fitting or proper in regards to that calling. “True grace in the heart must show itself by true godliness in the life” (PC 146).
“Obedience is always a response to grace” (Snodgrass 194). God acts first; we respond. God calls us through the gospel; we align our walk accordingly. Since God has acted in history through Christ (chs.1-3), we have an obligation to live a holy lifestyle (chs.4-6). The orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right practice) are inseparable and in fact are closely tied together throughout this epistle. The problem with some Christians is that we have a million dollar salvation and a five-cent response. They seem unimpressed with God’s salvation or bored of it or just really don’t care. If any of us has held a low view of God’s calling, repent.
2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
With all humility and gentleness: Humility is thinking of self in a right or true way in relation to 1) God & 2) fellow man. Don’t think to highly or too lowly of yourself. Think rightly & live accordingly . Gentleness or “meekness” (KJV) is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) cultivated in Christians to maintain unity. It is a disposition of submissiveness & consideration toward others.
With patience…in love: Patience has to do with endurance of injury & perseverance. “A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion” (Trench). Paul says we need this with one another,”i.e. with brothers/sisters in Christ. We are patient and bear with one another in love. We are seeking the highest purpose and greater good of one another. The highest purpose and greatest good for all of us is of course to see Christ in one another.
This verse is about our relationship to one another. Christianity is relational by nature. We are not spiritual Rambos/Chuck Norris’; we are part of the community of the redeemed which means we must interact with others. So we humility, gentleness, patience, love. We need to get rid of self-centeredness, hostility, our own agendas and hobby horses, even our own self interests if are going to properly demonstrates these Christian virtues. We should recognize that all of us at times have been a burden and a pain to others. It happens; we’re human. But we are bound to our brothers in Christ and we must determine not to let them go. “Oh, love that will not let me go…” While that is talking about God’s love, it is certainly appropriate for our love to one another.
3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eager…the Spirit: These Christians have this unity; they got it from the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Author of this unity. Christians are continually pursuing or guarding this unity, ready and willing to exert energy and effort in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
In the bond of peace: Peace is wrought by Christ (2.14-17). Whatever hostility there may have been between men before Christ saved them is eliminated. Combativeness & carelessness have no place in the church. What remains is the cord of peace tied with the knot of Christ’s blood.
The proper practice of verse 2 feeds into verse 3. In their day, Jews & Gentiles together sought to maintain what God had procured in Christ: the unity of the Spirit. Today, we have an obligation to do the same. To fulfill this obligation requires the obliteration of self. “Self kills peace” (Barclay 165). When we deny self and crucify self, Christ can live in and through us. The church then can fully maintain the unity and oneness God has achieved.
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
There is one body: throughout the Ephesian epistle, Paul uses this image for the church and of which Christ is the Head (e.g. 5.23).
One Spirit: the Holy Spirit of God through whom we have access to the Father (2.18). He animates the body. Soma cannot live without pnuema.
Just as…to your call: The Christian’s hope is the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven. To this we have been called (1.18, 4.1). It’s personal – you were called to this.
5 one Lord, one faith,one baptism,
One Lord: Jesus Christ
One faith: in Christ. Debate exists about whether this is the body of truth or one’s belief in Christ.
One [immersion]: into the possession of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28.19).
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
One God…in all: the supreme Being of all, the Father, who is the fountain of all being. the unity of the Spirit which we the church “maintains” is centered on seven (7) ones. Paul paints, stroke by stroke, the basis of unity upon which the admonition rests. Pictured here is a God who is actively involved in His world. He is supremely sovereign over all things and yet He is “through all” providentially at work in the world. No person is beyond His reach. He is “in all” as He sustains everything. Barclay puts it succinctly: “It is the Christian belief that we live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world” (168).
These seven (7) ones show us that Paul is not talking about unity at any cost. Unity is founded upon Christ – our faith in Him and knowledge of Him. So there are limits to unity. Should someone deny one of these seven “ones” then there is an interruption in unity. For example,
- Body: Should someone say “one church is as good another,” we should respond that there is but one body, the church, not a multiplicity of rival societies.
- Spirit: Should someone claim that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force, like electricity, we should respond that like the Father or Son the Spirit is a person of the Godhead.
- Hope: Should someone say all the righteous will just end up on a renovated earth, we should reply that we will be with the Lord where He is someday.
- Lord: should someone “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4), then of course we should take issue as Jude did in his day.
- Faith: Should someone claim that all faiths are just different roads up the same mountain, we should respond by pointing out that only faith in the one Lord will suffice.
- Immersion: should someone deny that baptism is essential for salvation, then we should likewise take issue.
- God: If someone claims that there is a plurality of gods or no God at all…
Having explained what the mystery of God is (3.6) and his role as well as the church’s role with regards to that mystery (3.7-13), Paul offers prayer on behalf of these Christians, closing the first half of this epistle.
The Appreciation of the Mystery (3.14-21)
Paul prays for Christians to be filled with the fullness of God in their inner being.
Ephesians 3:14–21 (ESV)
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
For this reason: Paul resumes his previous train of thought to conclude what he began in 3.1. Since the Gentiles are partakers of grace with the Jews according to the manifold wisdom of God, Paul lifts his voice in prayer. There is a similarity here to 1.15; there he prayed for knowledge, now he prays for love. Love is the supernatural expression of knowledge of the divine.
Paul prays to God that his brethren not only know (1.15ff), but that they live out what they know. Our knowledge is the basis for life. We need to live out what we know. Love is the supernatural expression of knowledge of the divine. When you know God, you will love God’s family, the church.
I bow my knees before the Father: Knelling is a typical posture for prayer (Luke 22.41). Father is a term used often in the NT to describe God. No doubt it derives from Jesus who taught His disciples to pray “Our Father in heaven” (Matt 6.9) and Himself prayed “Abba, Father” (Mark 14.36).
Posture in prayer: Kneeling is typical (Luke 22.41; Acts 20.36; 21.5), but not the only posture for prayer; standing (Mark 11.25), sitting (1 Chronicles 17.16), and prostration (Matthew 26.39) are also found in Scripture. “One may pray in any position, even with only a groan or in silence; but the positions noted have come to mean much in the church and for the individual. Careless, thoughtless attitudes of body are not good. Formalism is no more to be feared than the thoughtlessness of meaningless attitudes.” (Lenski 490)
15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
From whom…is named: There are a couple of ways to understand this phrase. 1) God’s Fatherhood is over saints (on earth) and angels (in heaven); 2) God’s Fatherhood is over everything, everybody in heaven or on earth (cf. Eph 4.6). He is the Creator and Progenitor (Originator) of all things. Hence, He is Father of all, over all, through all, and in all. The former seems to be in view; God is Father of His Fatherhood or Family (esp. the church) which bears His name. Paul has presented the cosmic Christ (1.22-23) & the cosmic role of the church (3.10-11); now he presents God as the cosmic Father.
Deism is merely a theology of atheism. It is atheism with a god. The notion that a god set in motion the universe, got it off the ground, then stepped away to focus on…whatever it is a deity like that focuses on is simply another brand of atheism. Further, that kind of god is not worthy of reverence or respect (i.e. worship). Why would I want to know a god who does not seek to know me? In fact, the God of the Bible is closely involved in His creation. It is true that God is with us, Christians; Matthew’s gospel makes this clear (1.23; 28.20). It is equally true that all humans live, move, and have their being because of God’s involvement in the world (see Acts 17.26-28). So in a general sense, God is the Father of all; however, in a specific sense, only His family (i.e. church) derives its name from Him.
16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
That according to the riches of His glory: Paul is not asking that God give from or out of His glory, but according to His glory, which is His essence. Thus, there is no limit to His giving.
He may grant…in your inner being: The verb strengthened is passive voice, i.e. this is something God does. He makes us strong, healthy, vigorous. He does this “through His Spirit.” How this occurs is not addressed nor is it Paul’s point. This is spiritual strength/enrichment for it happens “in the inner being.” We must be willing/attentive souls. Where the Spirit is, there is power, life, vitality. Absent the Spirit, the Body is dead.
Paul prays for these Christians to be empowered, strengthened by the Spirit of God. But if the Spirit does this, why don’t we experience it more? Why does it seem the church is so ineffective today? Two possibilities present themselves:
1) The theology is wrong: Yes, that is what Paul said, but that is not what he meant. This reduces the Christian life to a purely humanistic striving with only our might and power to help. It is too anthropocentric, focused on me and my ability to keep the law of God perfectly. Further, this view means that God is neither able nor willing to work.
2. The theology is right, but we abort the process: Yes, the problem is with us, not with God. He said what He meant when He promised spiritual strength in the inner being, the “moral might” (as Avon Malone calls it) we need to engage in glorious battle with the spiritual forces of darkness, forces that if we attempt to face on our own will slaughter us. “The real problem is that we do not care enough. We do not have the necessary discontent within ourselves that will lead to change. We like the privileges without the bother” (Snodgrass 185). The Spirit seeks out willingness to hear and allow ourselves to be transformed. By the way, transformation is the work of God, not ours. Even as this strengthening is God’s work, so is transformation.
17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
So that Christ…through faith: Paul prays that Christ may dwell in the hearts of these Christians. To sum up the Christian experience, we are to be absolutely soaked, permeated with Christ in our lives – inside, outside, all-around. He takes up residence in and redefines us, shaping and strengthening at the core of our being. Faith is the key to keeping Christ in us.
In the NT, we find the constant struggle to describe the Christian life. In some instances, we are called to “put on’ Christ; in other instances, the Christian is described as being “in Christ” (throughout Ephesians). Then there are those rare occasions (5 total in NT), where Christ is said to live in us. If Christ lives in us, those cherished American ideas of independence, self-determination, and self-fulfillment must be abandoned. As to independence, we are independent of everything but Jesus Christ; indeed, we are wholly dependent upon Him. As to self-determination, self has died and we are totally determined by Him. As to self-fulfillment, we seek only to fulfill Christ’s will which brings true fulfillment to us. Self is dead; Christ lives in me. See Galatians 2.20.
That you…in love: The presence of Christ in the heart of the Christian means love. Rooted is an agricultural term; like a tree, love is the soil by which Christians are nourished. Grounded is an architectural term; like a building, love is to be the foundation upon which the Christian life is built.
18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
May have strength…all the saints: Knowing the love of God is not the exclusive privilege of a few enlightened ones; the whole church (all the saints) needs the strength which comes from God to understand what has previous been hidden, namely, Christ’s love (v.19).
Spiritual comprehension and the ability to spiritually discern especially the love of Christ is only realized in the context of the holy church. Outside the church, one will lack the strength and ability to apprehend Christ’s love. The reason is because it not merely intellectual but also experiential. Absent the church, the body of Christ, one will fail to experience the love of Christ expressed through His body. “God knows nothing of solitary religion” (John Wesley).
What is the…depth: Some have found different shades of meaning in these words. For example, Jerome says Christ’s love reaches up to the angels, down to even the demons and evil spirits, it’s length covers all men and the breadth covers even those who drift and wander. Some see the cross which points up, down, and toward the horizons. Some think it could stand in contrast to the temple of Diana which was one of the wonders of the world. It seems best to understand these as a unit communicating the infinite & intense love of Christ with us in the center of that love.
Picture Paul as he writes of Christ’s love in the center of an enormous sphere or cube which represents Christ’s love. He can see how high and deep and wide and long it is and yet it is unfathomable just how great the structure is. It is breathtakingly grand. And to know Christ is to know His love.
19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
To know…surpasses knowledge: Such a vast love surpasses knowledge and is therefore unknowable. Yet the apostle calls Christians to know Christ’s unknowable love. It exceeds our capacity for comprehension. Still Christians must be ever in pursuit of knowing Christ’s love.
On knowing the love of Christ: “To know this; to feel this; to have a lively sense of it, is one of the highest privileges of the Christian. Nothing will so excite gratitude in our hearts; nothing will promote us so much to a life of self-denial; nothing will make us so benevolent and so dead to the world” (Albert Barnes).
That you may be…of God: “Among all the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest” (Clarke). To be filled with God is a great thing; to be filled with the fullness of God even better; but to be filled with all the fullness of God is incredible. Paul is praying that the church would be filled and flooded by all the fullness of God Himself. Again, this is a passive voice verb, i.e. God fills His people with His fullness. This is “the richest, best gift of God to man” (Barnes).
Though we can never fully know Christ’s exceeding love, how can we come to know Christ’s love? “It must find expression in experience, in sorrows and joys, trials and sufferings, in ways too deep for the human mind to fathom, or for human language to express” (Morris 114). I would add that it is also related to our connection to the community of believers, i.e. the church. As we sing, “Sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry,/ sometimes we share together heartaches and sighs” (“God’s Family” chorus). When we “rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” we are experiencing the surpass love of Christ.
20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
Now to Him…we ask or think: This is not something yet to happen nor is it something no longer happening. He is still able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He is able to do “superabundantly above the greatest abundance” (Clarke). Or He is able to do “to the extent which we cannot express” (Barnes). God is able to do “beyond everything” (Lenski). Trying to describe His ability is like chasing the wind.
According to the power at work within us: These are present tense verbs, i.e. God is still able and is still working. His power is working in us. Connect this with v.16, “power through His Spirit in the inner being” (same word for “power”). To the degree we are willing/yielding to be transformed and allow that power to work is the degree to which we will mature/grow, & be the NT church as God/Christ envision.
The power to grow lies in God’s power, not ours. If the foregoing is so – the Father is over all, through all, and in all as the Father of the whole fatherhood; Christians are powerfully strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit, permeated with the perpetual presence of Christ, called to know the unknowable love of Christ, and are filled with fullness of God Himself; and we serve a God who can do more than we could ever ask of imagine – then how could we ever look at the plan and purpose of God for His church and call it anything but possible, achievable, wise, and right? This leads to another question…
Why don’t we experience this in the church today? Two answers can be given: 1) the theology is wrong; it sounds nice, but God is neither able to nor at work. 2) the theology is right, but we abort the process. Which leads to still another question…
Are we willing to allow God to work through and in us to accomplish His purposes?
21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
To Him be glory…forever and ever: This final exclamation is emphatic – to Him and Him alone the glory! It always was, is, and will be His. In the Body as well as the Head! “The song of praise, begun upon earth, and protracted through all the generations of men, shall be continued in heaven, by all that are redeemed from the earth” (Clarke). God is glorified in Christ and the church for all eternity. Amen means so be it
Paul shows us from both this prayer and the previous prayer (1.15-23) that prayer must be intensely theocentric (centered on God) and Trinitarian (include the whole Godhead). Father (14), Son (17, 19), and Holy Spirit (16) are all mentioned in this brief prayer. This prayer begins and ends with God (14, 19) and God is mentioned throughout. It might be worthwhile to determine what Paul does not pray for (sick, safe travel, freedom from persecution, etc.) contrasted with what he does pray for (spiritual strength by the Spirit, rooted in love, knowledge of Christ’s love for His saints, etc.)
Paul has just defined what the mystery of God is (3.6) and now turns his attention to his role in making known God’s mystery as “a minister.” He will also give special attention to the church’s cosmic role in relation to the mystery as well.
The Propagation of the Mystery (7-13)
The church is steward of the mystery and makes it known in both the physical & spiritual realms.
7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.
Of this gospel…gift of God’s grace: Minister (Gk diakonos) is the word from which we get “deacon.” It was by grace that Paul was a servant of the mystery of the gospel.
It is still by the grace of God that we 1) have our current work for the kingdom & 2) carry out our ministry to the glory of God. The task to which Paul was called “needed no mere human strength and patience and power of endurance” (Foulkes 103). So too with us we need the power and grace of God in all our labor for the kingdom. Far too often we depend upon our own strength and power. What does that look like? Well, perhaps it shows up when we are grateful we survived another year of VBS without tearing off someone’s head. Is that really what we’ve been called to in the church? To survive? Or to thrive? And to actually enjoy comradery with one another as we rally around a common cause in a spirit of love. When we depend upon our own power, we merely survive thru church functions; when we rely upon the power of God, we thrive together being built up in love.
Which was…His power: “Paul gratefully acknowledged that all the power of his ministry was God’s, not his own” (PC 105). This is true both in the equipping for and the exercise of it (Col 1.29). “By the grace of God he was called and received as a servant of the gospel, and by the power of God he did all that was effective in that service” (Foulkes 103-104).
8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
To me…grace was given: Paul makes a similar statement about his unworthiness in 2 Corinthians 12.11. Here Paul emphasizes all the saints, i.e. he is least in the church at large. This attitude is born out of his reflection upon the marvel of God’s grace working in his life.
There are too many Christians who view themselves as the greatest gift God gave His church. Barclay puts it like this, “The tragic fact in churches is that there are so many who are more concerned with their own honour and prestige than with the honour and prestige of Jesus Christ; and who are more concerned that they should be noticed than that Christ should be seen” (147). To which I say, “Please, hear Paul on this.” He calls himself the least which is not false deprecation. I believe he meant it and truly viewed himself as least. But when you really adopt the role of a servant and the mind of Christ, naturally (or supernaturally) you become least.
To preach…riches of Christ: Grace is not merely something to be received but to be shared with others and so Paul evangelized to the Gentiles with the glorious gospel of grace. The riches of God’s grace in Christ are unsearchable or “unfathomable” (NASB). That is, they are beyond comprehension and understanding. Yet Paul sought to search out the unsearchable. Cf. Job 5.9; 9.10.
9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
To bring to light…the mystery: In addition to his preaching, Paul was enlightening everyone (Jew & Gentile) to the plan (Gk oikonomia, same word as v.2) of God in the mystery. So Paul’s function is to explain how God has dispersed His grace to both Jews and Gentiles through Christ.
Hidden for ages…all things: The mystery had been kept secret for ages, inaccessible because it was in God. God’s role as Creator is mentioned to not only affirm the existence of God or deny Darwinian evolution, but to indicate God’s purpose was hidden during those past times from creation until the New Testament church age and prepares us for the next verse…
Textual Note: Some mss have “through Christ Jesus” at the end of this verse, however, many of the ancient mss do not have these words, though it is a Biblical concept (see Hebrews 1.2).
10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
So that through the church: Now Paul addresses the church’s glorious mission and role in the grand scheme of redemption. This is the purpose of the church now established through the gospel.
The manifold wisdom…made known: In the blood bought body of Christ God’s wisdom is manifested in a myriad of differing ways. God is putting His genius & intellect on display not only for men, but for…
To the rulers…in heavenly places: Every created being is watching what God is doing in the church, being enlightened concerning His work in human redemption. While the church’s responsibility is to evangelize the world, the emphasis of this verse is on the spiritual relam. So God’s “master plan” has unfolded throughout this section: first, it was made known to Paul (v.3); then, it was revealed to the apostles and prophets (v.5); next, everyone was enlightened to the plan (v.9); finally, it was made known to the spiritual forces in the unseen heavenly realms (v.10). So Paul brings us full circle from where he started in 1.10: Christ uniting all things in heaven and on earth.
Some might ask, “Why wait?” Why did God wait until the NT times to reveal His master plan? Simply, to glorify Himself. Everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth has now focused on what God is doing through the church, uniting Jew & Gentile, all of them redeemed by the blood of Christ. But this work continues in history as God unites Sunni & Shiite Muslims, American capitalist & Chinese communist, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican – all men into one holy body, the church. And the angels marvel. And the demons shudder. Because this God is so wise. Romans 11.33.
11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
According to the eternal purpose: Literally, this is the “purpose of the ages.” It answers to v.9 “hidden for ages;” though hidden, God was still in history working out His purpose and putting on display his “manifold wisdom.” “Behind all the events of this world’s history there is an eternal purpose being worked out” (Foulkes 106). This is the reason some suggest we call it His-story. All of human history was driving toward the glorious entrance of Christ. Since it is the eternal purpose, it extends from eternity before time began to eternity when time is no more.
In just a few brief words, Paul puts to bed whatever notions premillenialism has concerning the church being merely an afterthought, a Plan B, a parenthesis, an audible called at the line of scrimmage. Christ’s church has always been Plan A in the “eternal purpose” of God. According to Paul in Ephesians, God planned a work and worked His plan; God purposed a purpose and accomplished that purpose in Christ and the church. See Job 42.2. Maybe Left Behind left out that verse!
He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord: Jesus is the agent by which God “accomplished” (NIV) His eternal purpose. From eternity, God purposed that human redemption would be realized in the cross of Christ (cf. Rev 13.8). If the plan is both eternal and Christocentric, then Christ Himself is from eternity. Indeed, the three-fold name speaks to His eternality: Christ indicates his preexistence, Jesus points to His incarnation, & Lord shows His exalted position in the universe. This enhances our understanding of His work.
What an awesome love God has for His people that before He created time, He loved man. Knowing full well man would rupture that perfect relationship in the beginning and turn his back on God and fall helplessly into the hands of Satan, He loved us. And He loved us so much He devised to save us through Christ. However we say it, it is the greatest love story ever told.
12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
In Whom…with confidence: Here is a practical benefit of the eternal purpose of God: prayer. Lenski calls this the “crowning gift.” We have is indicative of the Christian’s present reality in addressing the Father. Though He is Almighty God whose purpose & plan encompasses time and eternity, heaven and earth, He is not aloof and far off, but we have His ear. Christ is our access to the Father (cf. 2.18). He is the reason we can have boldness (freedom to speak, even in intimidating circumstances) and confidence (the trust of being heard). There is no fear or shame for either Jew or Gentile to approach when they are in Christ.
Note that the word for “access” was a word used of the High Priest when we entered the Holy of Holies. So all Christians have what a scant few had under the Old Covenant: direct access to the holiest of all, even the throne room of God. This is the whole thrust of the epistle to the Hebrews, but see esp. 4.16 & 10.19.
Through our faith in Him: “Obedient trust in Christ is the condition upon which the blessings of boldness and confidence become reality” (Malone 47). In Christ “we have redemption through His blood” (1.7) and experience “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (2.7) which makes possible our access to the Father.
13So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
So I ask…for you: Implicit in this request of Paul to his readers is that they were becoming or had become discouraged because the apostle to the Gentiles was imprisoned for preaching the gospel to them (cf. 3.1). So Paul makes a heartfelt entreaty to them to realize that his suffering is to their gain. Note: Some see here a prayer of Paul to God for these brethren.
Think of all the brethren the world over who are suffering for the sake of the gospel. Imprisoned, beaten, tortured, etc. for Christ. Like Paul, they are prisoners and yet are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. What can we do? Lobby Washington to urge their release immediately? Sign petitions to be hand delivered to the respective ambassadors of the countries where these brethren are held? Pray for their release? Perhaps Paul could enlighten us: Eph 6.18-19. All Paul wanted from these brethren was that they pray that he would have boldness to speak when opportunity afforded itself.
Which is your glory: Paul’s suffering imprisonment for the Gentiles is the Gentile’s glory inasmuch as it shows 1) God’s immeasurable love for the Gentiles, & 2) enables Paul to rejoice in suffering for Christ (cf. Col 1.24). The Gentiles hear the gospel and Paul preaches Christ. Herein lies a glorious activity.
Paul began this epistle with praise (1.3-14) and prayer to God (1.15-23) before discussing what God has done in the church (2.1-22). He will continue to pray for his readers (3.14-21). But first he explains 1) the mystery of God, 2) his role with the mystery, & 3) the church’s cosmic mission.
The Revelation of the Mystery (1-6)
Paul had the mystery revealed to him & he delivered it in this epistle, viz., the union of Jews & Gentiles into one body. The Father (ch.1), the Son (ch.2), & now the Holy Spirit (ch.3).
1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—
For this reason: This phrase is in reference to the foregoing theological ideas just emphasized. As in 1.15, Paul starts a thought but is diverted (v.2-13) by mention, here, of the Gentiles.
I, Paul, a prisoner…you Gentiles: Not just “a prisoner” but literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Paul is in Roman custody, yet he says in truth he is Christ’s prisoner. His imprisonment for (or possibly by) Christ is for the sake of the Gentiles; in fact, it was his preaching to the Gentiles which landed him in prison. He will refer to himself as a prisoner later also (4.1).
It is all in how you look at you circumstances. “One man will regard his prison as a penance; another man will regard it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we can either regard ourselves as the victims of men, or as the champions of Christ. Our point of view will make all the difference” (Barclay 142).
2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,
Assuming that you have heard: Seems to indicate that the readers were unfamiliar with Paul personally, indicating that this was a circular letter among the churches in the Lycus River Valley. Several scholars do not see doubt, but certainty (i.e. “since…”); they heard from Paul himself.
The stewardship…for you: Stewardship (Gk oikonomian) was used in 1.10 for Christ. Paul had been entrusted with God’s grace which was a gift given to him (see v.7). He served to dispense that grace to the Gentiles through his role as apostle for you, that is, the “nations.”
In a similar fashion, we, brethren, have been entrusted with the grace of God. We have the gospel of grace. We must be faithful stewards of God’s grace by “dispensing” it to those around us (i.e. evangelism).
3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.
How the mystery: The musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment (see p.5). Here especially in this context it is closely related to the gospel being for Gentiles as well as the Jews.
Was made known to me by revelation: The mystery was made known to Paul at some point in his past (aorist tense). Perhaps Paul is thinking of when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and Jesus revealed to him “I am sending you” to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17-18). Cf. Galatians 1.12. The nature of revelation is some truth is uncovered or disclosed by special communication.
As I have written briefly: see 1.9-10. He now expounds upon his brief comments earlier.
None of us had a bright light from heaven blinding us and disclosing some saving secret like Paul did, but we possess the saving secret of God. As the initiated and illuminated of God, we know the mystery of God and can make it known not merely to men but also to spiritual powers in the heavenly places (see verse 10).
4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,
When you read [this]: This is supplied in English for clarity but is lacking in the Greek. When you read what Paul has written briefly (v.3)…
You can…the mystery of Christ: The word musterion is found 21 times in Paul’s literature with 6 of those in Ephesians (1.9; 3.3, 4, 9; 5.32; 6.19). He will explain it fully in verse 6. So Paul is safe in writing that his readers can understand the mystery just as he understands it.
5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
Which we not…in other generations: The purpose of God has always been the same though man’s knowledge of His purpose has been limited. The revelation of that grand purpose has been gradual; while the mystery may have been revealed in part in the past, now through the apostles and prophets it has been made fully known.
There were glimpses of God’s grand scheme of redemption, but the full glory of His marvelous plan had yet to be made known fully.
As it has now been revealed: What was once concealed has now been revealed by God. Again, God’s purpose to include Gentiles was not unknown entirely in the Old Testament (cf. Gen 12.3; Isa 49.6); but the full measure of God’s toward the Gentiles was not fully known until now.
To His holy apostles and prophets: Like Paul, these New Testament messengers have been entrusted with the sacred secret of the Savior. That the apostles and prophets are holy speaks to the dedication of their lives to and by the will of God (see 1.1).
By the Spirit: The Spirit alone is able to search “even the depths of God” and only He “comprehends the thoughts of God.” But the Spirit is also able to teach in words so that man might understand the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2.10-16).
Why don’t we have modern-day prophets? Barnes explains, “They were persons endowed in this manner [i.e. inspired of the Holy Spirit] for the purpose of imparting to the newly formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of people in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.”
6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
This mystery is: These words are provided for clarity. Paul states the substance of the mystery.
Gentiles are fellow heirs: with the Jews, that is. The emphasis here is upon receiving an unearned gift, especially the blessings God has for His people (1.3) and the same inheritance (1.11-14). Note the present tense—Gentile are the following. This is present reality.
Members of the same body: This is a single word in the Greek (susoma) and is unique to Paul later church writers. Literally it is co-body. There is but “one body” (4.4) and both Jews & Gentiles are part of it.
Partakers…through the gospel: The promise most scholars point to is that made to Abraham (Genesis 12.3) and is confirmed in Galatians 3.7-14. “They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles” (PC 105). Only in Christ Jesus can Jews and Gentiles partake of this blessing; only through the gospel are they invited and admitted.
It is still “through the gospel” that we gain access to the promise, body, and inheritance today. We must believe, accept, and obey “the gospel of your salvation” (1.13) to be incorporated into Christ Jesus. As Christians, we need to value the gospel. “If we do not value the gospel as revelation from God, it will not impact our lives.” Think of the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price (Mt 13.44-46). We have that which is of ultimate value; it was all Paul and all we have. “We must give attention to the gospel, be defined by the gospel, and solve our problems by applying the gospel.” And the gospel is not merely about getting to heaven; it is about life here and now as well as over yonder. It captures our initial conversion and our daily walk as disciples. It touches on our forgiveness and how we ought to forgive others. It speaks to God’s unfathomable love for us and how we ought to love one another. With so many implications upon life right now, it is no wonder Paul calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8). And then we gather with the saints once or twice a week and think we’ve got it. No, we only start unwrapping the gift here; you take it home and finish the job the rest of the week.
 Snodgrass 169.
 Ibid 170.
From the believers union with Christ (2.1-10) Paul points his readers toward their unity in the church (2.11ff). Paul’s emphasis is that in the body there is not Jewish and Gentile believers but “one new man in place of two” (v.15).
Access to His Blood (11-13)
Though previously far away from God by the blood of Jesus God has brought us near.
11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
Therefore: On the ground of your former, fallen state and in light of your current, exalted state…
Remember: present imperative. Remember what you were by nature (v.3) and what you have become by grace (v.5, 8). Some even contend this therefore reaches back to 1.3; so Paul calls upon the Gentiles to consider all they have experienced from God through Christ.
That at one time…in the flesh: Though dead and made alive by Christ like the Jews, the Gentiles were distinct in the flesh, i.e. in regards to physical circumcision. That is, since they did not bear the mark of covenant (i.e. circumcision), they were excluded from the promises and blessings of covenant with the true and living God (hence, v.12). The present tense indicates this kind of behavior was habitual and ongoing.
Called…by hands: The phrase ‘the uncircumcision’ was a term of derision by the Jews to speak of everybody who was not a Jew in the flesh. The Israelites were supposed to be a light for the nations (Isaiah 42.6; 49.6), but instead they treated uncovenanted people with contempt.
Who are “the uncircumcised” of our day and time? An updated version might talk about “the unbaptized.” I would hope, though, we would not speak of those unbaptized ones in a derogatory fashion, but rather with a broken heart speak of those who are excluded from the blessings and benefits of being an immersed one.
12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Remember that you were: “Remember” is supplied to continue the thought. You were is the imperfect tense, indicating this was the ongoing situation in their former life before Christ.
Separated from Christ: or “without Christ” indicating that they were totally destitute of the favor and fellowship, the blessings of God. Suggesting perhaps even no interest in Him.
Alienated from…Israel: very strong language; they were shut out from the presence, fellowship of God. They did not have a country nor citizenship in the divinely appointed kingdom.
Strangers to the covenants of promise: that is, they had no share in or knowledge of the covenants of Israel. It was foreign to the Gentiles.
Having no hope: as regards the future, they had nothing to look forward to in the afterlife. How could they? They had no hope of the forgiveness of sin or resurrection unto life.
Without God in the world: Gk. Atheoi, from which we get our word “atheist.” The Gentiles had many gods. But Paul says they were “atheists” for they did not know the true God.
Some of us may have been atheists before coming to Christ. Some may have been hopeless, caught in various vices and addictions. Some may have been Biblically illiterate and “covenant” was not in our vocabulary. But all of us were at one time separated from Christ because of sin.
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
But now in Christ Jesus: But now is a complete reversal of the preceding portrait. Only in Christ Jesus can the picture be reversed. This is the gospel—Christ came to reverse our fortunes and rewrite our futures. He died so that the dead might live now.
You who…by the blood of Christ: There had been a wide, impassible chasm fixed between the Gentiles and God—the chasm of sin. But the blood of Jesus filled the chasm, spanning the gulf to bring them near. The aorist tense have been brought answers to the imperfect tense you were in verse 12; their lifestyle was an ongoing mess of sin until all-at-once they came in contact with Christ’s blood and everything changed. Cf. Isaiah 57.19
Our lives were unmanageable messes, just a constant stream of self-gratification and doing whatever we wanted. But then all-at-once and in an instant we came in contact with Christ’s blood at the baptistery and we came near God in Christ. Now our lives have become an ongoing transformation process.
Access to His Peace (14-17)
Jesus offers peace to all through His cross. Note: “One” is the language of peace.
14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
For He Himself is our peace: Christ is not only a Peacemaker, but He is peace; He has removed the enmity, thereby producing an atmosphere free from war wherein Jew & Gentile unite.
Who has us both one: Lit. He has made both elements one element. Christ takes two hostile factions (Jews & Gentiles) and by His blood fashions one body, one people, one church.
And has…wall of hostility: In His flesh Christ offered Himself as a peace offering to God for mankind. It is in that moment on the cross (aorist) that the dividing wall is broken down, the symbol of which was at the temple (dividing the temple from the Court of the Gentiles). When a person is at peace with God, he/she is simultaneously at peace with every other person at peace with God.
15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
By abolishing…in ordinances: This is strong language which is easily misunderstood. Christ “renders ineffective” the Law of commandments in dogmas by His death on the cross. He fulfilled the Law and rendered it ineffective to function as a set of regulations to make Gentiles Jewish. The Law still serves as a moral guide (see 6.2, Paul quotes the 5th commandment), but the enmity causing barriers of regulations and rituals “in the flesh” has been invalidated “in His flesh.”
That He might…in place of the two: Jesus came to unite all men (contextually, Jew & Gentile) into one new man. Not by Greeks conquering the Jews or Jews forcing Greeks to convert; this is a completely new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.17). New in more than just a temporal sense (time), but also in a qualitative sense (kind). This is a creation which did not exist before.
So making peace: primarily between God and man; secondarily between Jew & Gentile. With the removal of the Law came peace.
Why was there hostility between men (Jew and Gentile)? Perhaps the Jew, with the oracles of God, gloried in his position while the Gentile despised the fantastic rites of the Jew, namely circumcision (which was brought up earlier).
“One new man” – New in kind: Christ produces a new kind of person out of both Jews and Gentiles although both remain Jews & Gentiles. Chrysostom says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of silver and a statue of lead and the two come out as gold (Barclay 136).
16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
And might reconcile us…through the cross: Reconcile is friendship language. Previously there was a rupture in the friendly relations (b/c of sin); we became the enemies of God because of the enmity present (cf. Rom 5.10). But Christ has removed the hostility, taking it upon Himself in the cross, and there is a complete restoration of the relationship. Both Jew and Gentile in the one body (church, the new Israel) are reconciled completely back to God. Harmony is restored.
Thereby killing the hostility: When Christ is killed, the hostility is killed. “By His being slain, He slew it” (JFB, emphasis original). This is the hostility first, between God and man, and second, between Jew & Gentile (or among people generally).
Jesus is the answer to animosity among all races, ethnicities, factions, and peoples. The church is the single place on this planet where Jew & Gentile, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican, the haves & the have-nots, American capitalists & Chinese communists are united and “one” (v.14, 15, 16, 18). Double reconciliation: all people to God in one body and all people to his fellow brother in Christ.
17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
And He came and preached peace: cf. Isaiah 57.19. Both verbs are aorist tense (snapshot). The Lord’s coming and preaching is somewhat debated: 1) Some say this is in reference His earthly ministry before the cross (Luke 2.14); 2) Others say what is in view is the event of the cross (mentioned in verse 16) as an act of proclaiming peace; 3) Some see the whole crucifixion-resurrection-exaltation as an act of proclaiming peace; 4) Still others see here the coming of the Holy Spirit since peace could not truly be proclaimed (esp. to Gentiles) until after the ascension. “Regardless of what view one may take, the important point is that in the Christ event (life-death-resurrection-exaltation), peace was achieved and access to God was made possible” (Patzia 197).
To you who were far off: i.e. Gentiles. Cf. v.13. They were far off because they did not have the patriarchs, the covenants, the Law, etc. whereas Jews did and were thus near (see Romans 9.4-5).
And peace to those who were near: i.e. Jews. It is interesting that the Gentiles are mentioned first and then the Jews (esp. cf. Romans 1.16). Chronologically, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel and hope in the Lord. But the emphasis here seems to be that the gospel is for Gentiles and they were as near as the Jews.
Christ was the best and most balanced preacher to ever live. Let us reserve the title “prince of preachers” solely for Him. Not only was He the one to speak most about hell, but He also preached a message of peace, peace with fellow man (Jew/Gentile) and peace with God.
Access to His Father (18-22)
Christians are part of the Family of God wherein the Father dwells by His Spirit.
18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
For through Him we both have access: Access has to do with the right or opportunity to speak to someone. Formerly, only Jews had access and even that was limited (High Priest once a year into the veil). Now, in Christ and through Christ, all (“both” means Jew & Gentile) have the freedom to come to God.
In one Spirit to the Father: Christ has made it possible that we can address our Father in one Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit. So we have the Godhead presented in this single statement. Also, the Christian’s access to God is through or by one Spirit since we are united by one Spirit in baptism (see 1 Corinthians 12.13).
19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
So then…strangers and aliens: or “therefore.” Strangers is the same word as found in v.12. Aliens is a new concept which denotes a person who lives in a place without the right of citizenship. While the Gentiles were strangers and aliens (see v.12), there has been a complete reversal and they are no longer excluded from God’s purposes.
But you are fellow citizens with the saints: But (Gk alla) draws a sharp contrast. The Gentiles are now fellow citizens with all the rights and privileges that come with being residents of the holy nation of God. They have citizenship in the divine kingdom; they are residents of a “better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11.16). With the saints could be an allusion to the Old Testament saints, the historic people of God.
Members of the household of God: Earlier in the epistle Paul said that they were adopted as sons (1.5). “You are not guests or visitors, but permanent dwellers in the house and members of the family” (Pulpit Commentary 67). The idea of the church as family can be traced through the New Testament (1 Timothy 3.15; Hebrews 3.2, 5, 6; 10.21; 1 Peter 4.17).
The drive to identify with someone, some group, some important cause is powerful and strong in each of us. Why do you think people (men especially) are such ravenous sports fans, even getting in fights in the bleachers with fans of the opposing team? These identifications make us feel important. They cause us to feel like we belong. This text (with the following verses) communicate to us and tell us we belong! We have a country and a kingdom; we have a home and family. We belong with God and are involved in what He is doing. This should shape our worship: we do not come as spectators to watch; we come to participate in the family experience, uniting our voices in praise and prayer, addressing and being addressed. We belong and are involved.
20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
Built on…the apostles and prophets: Here is the third image Paul uses to show the Gentiles they are part of the eternal purpose of God: a holy temple (v.21). The Gentiles have been built (aorist tense indicates a completed action in the past) upon the firm foundation of the apostles and prophets. Here the OT prophets as well as NT prophets are those who are in view here (e.g. Agabus, Acts 21.10 for a NT prophet). However, word order coupled with 3.4-5 (the mystery now revealed) seems to emphasize NT prophets.
Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone: He is the cornerstone because “the whole edifice rests on Him” (Coffman). “The idea of chief corner-stone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation” (PC 67). If both Old & New Testament spokesmen (i.e. prophets) are in view, then Christ has been and continues to be the support for the saints of God, shaping and forming the community and her members.
Notice: the church is the people. We are the living stones. While our building is conducive to worship and other functions, we are the church. 1) Our assembly should not be viewed as a program in which a privileged few participate. In fact, we are all participate, worshipping our God who is present with us. 2) Ministry is for everyone, not merely the “clergy.” 3) We are all valuable & vital to the ministry and mission of the church.
21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
In Whom…joined together: As the cornerstone of a building holds together two walls, so Christ has joined & holds together both Jews & Gentiles in one church. The word for being joined together (Gk sunarmoloumene) is a double compound that Paul invents; it is exclusive not only to the NT but also to Ephesians (see 4.16). In the present tense, it indicates that this is an ongoing process. An architectural term which points to fitting exactly together and even enhancing in compatibility.
Grows into a holy temple in the Lord: Paul presents the temple as a living being capable of growth. This is similar to Peter’s “living stones” in a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2.5). The temple of God will continue to grow and increase until the day of judgment. The word used for temple here denotes the place in which God dwells, where His holy presence (i.e. glory) resides.
Albert Barnes on “being joined together”:
The word used here means “to joint together,” as a carpenter does the frame-work of a building. The materials are accurately and carefully united by mortises and tenons. so that the building shall be firm. Different materials may be used, and different kinds of timber may be employed, but one part shall be worked into another, so as to constitute a durable and beautiful edifice. So in the church. The different materials of the Jews and Gentiles; the people of various nations, though heretofore separated and discordant, become now united, and form an harmonious society. They believe the same doctrines; worship the same God; practice the same holiness; and look forward to the same heaven.
22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
In Him: That is, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You also are being built together: present passive verb. This indicates that the process is continuous and the building is done by God. You indicates Paul is emphasizing the Gentiles; they along with the Jews as the church are being build together. Every part is of vital importance to the structural integrity of the building.
Into a dwelling place for God: connected with v.21 (a holy temple), these Christians are being continually fashioned into a fit residence for the divine presence. Formerly God dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem; now “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21.3; cf. 2 Corinthians 6.16). Simultaneously, “what an awful thought, that the holy God dwells in our unholy hearts, watching us in our secret moments, and reading out very thoughts” (Pulpit Commentary 84).
By the Spirit: Verse 21 ended with in the Lord; now this verse ends by/in the Spirit. This reminds us that only in Christ, only in the Spirit are we said to be God’s place of residence. “None can have any true place in the eternal building of God, unless they have found life in Christ” (Foulkes 96). Also note that once again we find the Godhead all mentioned in a single verse: In the Son we are built into a residence for the Father by the Spirit.
When houses are built it is so that people may live in them. In similar fashion, God’s house (the church) is built so that He might dwell in it. When we abide in Christ, He abides in us (John 15.4). Further, the building is continual and progressive; it is ongoing. Construction never ceases. Consider our building. It started with just the auditorium. Soon classrooms were added. The west & east wings were built. The fellowship hall was renovated. The church offices have been relocated. New flooring was put into the fellowship just last year. Plus, there is general upkeep and projects to maintain it. So with the church, the construction is continual. There is always refining work to be done. New members are being added. The faith of some may need shoring up. When we gather together, we edify the structure.
Some say that all of chapters 1-3 is a prayer of Paul (see 3.14; 1.15). So this section (2.1-10) is a recitation of the spiritual history of the Ephesians and all who come to obedient faith in Christ. This text can be seen to track with Genesis 1: We have the chaos (v.1-3) out of which God brings order (v.4-9) and a new creation (v.10).
Access to His Grace (1-10)
God made us alive in Christ when He saved us by grace through faith unto good works.
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
And you were dead: And indicates this section is connected with the previous verses in ch.1. You is emphatic. Paul is using a historical present tense (lit. you being dead) to remind these Christians of the filth from which they have come, that is spiritual death.
All people outside of and away from Christ are the walking dead. They are spiritual zombies, “dead even while [they] live.” Isa 25.7, they wear casket clothes. Those we walk by every day, who we work with, eat, with, commute with, perhaps even live with – they are dead! Just like you used to be. But God…even as God worked a work in your life, so He is able to work a work in theirs!
In the trespasses and sins: Two terms for offenses against God. 1) Trespasses—a term which points to boundaries set by God which we are not go beyond or barriers set up to keep us from harm (esp. the Law and conscience). 2) Sin—”missing the mark” by failing to do what God said to do or doing something which God said not to do. Both trespasses and sins have the same killing effect.
2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
In which you once walked: Or how they lived, going about with their dead lives. Walking is a figure used later in this epistle (v.10, 4.1; 5.2, 8, 15) and elsewhere in the NT (Col 4.5; 1 Jn 1.7).
Following the course of the this world: Here is the 1st antithesis to life with God. This is “earthbound motives” which are typical of the world. It is an ethic which stands juxtaposed with “the coming ages” (v.7). This system does not consider God and is opposed to God (cf. 1 John 2.15-17).
Following…of the air: Here is the 2nd antithesis to life with God. “Satan is here pictured as the ruler of the demons and other agencies of evil” (Robertson). Formerly, these Christians had their lives shaped by the master of evil as they followed his bidding. That these beings are of the air indicates that they are immaterial, spiritual beings, not necessarily that they “haunt” the atmosphere.
The spirit…the sons of disobedience: present tense, the devil is still working in the world, namely in “children in whom is no faithfulness” (Dt 32.20). He fans into flame their dislike for the will of God. Though he fell like lightning from heaven (Luke 10.18), is judged (John 16.11), and will soon be crushed under our feet (Romans 16.20), Satan energizes those not surrendered to God.
Those who are not surrendered to God are subject to Satan. There are only two energizing forces in this cosmic battle for the souls of men: God and Satan. And if a person is not surrendered to God, he is surrendered to the forces of darkness of whom Satan is the head. “And if people are surrendered to the power of evil, they become those whose habit of life is contrary to the living God, and so they are rightly called the sons of disobedience.
3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Among whom…our flesh: We all once lived points to Paul including himself with the Ephesian readers as among the sons of disobedience. Lived (or “conducted ourselves,” NKJV) stresses daily behavior. So the daily behavior of the unregenerate person is the gratification of “the longings and impulses of the self-centered life” (Foulkes 79). This is the pattern of life which emerges when left to our own natural desires and proclivities. Neither Jew nor Gentile are exempt.
We “all” did this before Christ. If you say you did not, there is no hope for you. We all gave into the base, carnal, earthy, selfish desires and appetites. That’s sin in its basic definition – gratify the selfish desires.
Carrying out…the mind: our habitual practice was to fulfill the will of the flesh and mind. “Lusts lead to acts” (Lenski). So not only self-centered passions, but the actual doing of those desires, both in the flesh and in our thoughts. Indeed, from our thoughts issue forth our fleshly practices.
Were by nature…the rest of mankind: Before becoming the children of God or light (see 5.8), we were by nature children of wrath. There was a Jewish thought that the Gentiles were ignorant of God “by nature” (see Wisdom 13.1). Paul affirms that all men—Jew or Gentile—are subject to divine wrath due to disobedience. Because of what they did, they were under the judgment of God. Like the rest of mankind could speak of Gentiles, but it seems best to understand it as the former state of these Christians before coming to obedient faith in Christ. All men, if left to themselves, develop the habitual practice (i.e. nature) of self-gratification (i.e. sin).
We see here three (3) fatal guides: 1) The world (v.2, “the course of this world”), 2) The devil (v.2, “the prince of the power of the air”), & 3) The flesh (v.3, “the passions of the flesh”). When one follows these guides, heeding their voice to “trespass” and “sin” against God, it leads to a very dark condition for man: 1) Morally dead (v.1, 5, “dead in trespasses and sins”), 2) Practically worldly (v.2, “following the course of this world”), 3) Satanically ruled (v.2, “following the prince of the power of the air”), 4) Wickedly associated (v.3, “the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived”), 5) Carnally debased (v.3, “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”), & 6) Perilously situated (v.3, “children of wrath”). Here is the bleak picture of life outside of and away from God and Christ.
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
But God: When the night was darkest, in broke the light! God entered the fray.
Being rich in mercy: Mercy is not getting what we deserve (wrath, v.3). No doubt God’s mercy is immeasurable like His grace (v.7). It is our in abundance and overflowing.
Because…He loved us: It is God’s infinite love which is the ground of our salvation.
“Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” (Bengal). God sees our deadness and offers us life in Christ. There is longing in the heart of God for us to be restored to life and vitality. You cannot have verse 4 without verse 1-3.
5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Even when we…our trespasses: Repeat of the reality of verse 1; spiritual death by trespassing. There were “No Trespassing” signs up and we crossed the line, climbed the fence and we paid the penalty for trespassing – spiritual death.
Made us alive together with Christ: As Christ was raised bodily by the power of God, so we are raised spiritually by God’s power. So we have new life with Christ, even eternal life (cf. Rom 6.4).
By grace you have been saved: At the heart of spiritual resurrection is God’s grace., i.e. His unmerited favor. The construction of this phrase (also in v.8) reaches forward & backward in time while also touching the present. We have been saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved—all by God’s grace. This is ubiquitous in the New Testament: Acts 15.11; Romans 3.24; Titus 2.11.
6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
And raised us up with Him: Having been revitalized (v.5) with new life we have also been resurrected with Christ. As Christ walked out of the tomb, so we vacate our spiritual sepulchers. As Christ ascended after His resurrection, so the Christian ascends out of the “domain of darkness” and into “the reign of the Beloved Son” (Col 1.13).
And seated us…in Christ Jesus: Or enthroned us. What happened to Christ (1.20) has happened to the Christian also. “We are joined to him so that we are where he is” (Snodgrass 102). The heavenly places refers the spiritual realm where we “reign with Christ” (Revelation 20.4, 6).
Salvation is presented as an event which has occurred in the past (i.e. baptism) and a present possession and reality experienced by those in Christ. To enjoy salvation requires being joined to the Savior. The gift cannot be separated from the Giver.
7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So that in the coming ages: that is, those periods and times from apostolic days until the second coming of Christ or the church age. Indeed, God’s grace has flowed freely and fully in history.
He might show…in Christ Jesus: throughout church history God has made known His grace in the example of the Ephesians and Paul (“us”). The riches of his grace must be immeasurable if He can show kindness (or love in action) toward such sinners! Grace is only found in Christ Jesus.
If God can show mercy, grace, and love toward the Ephesians and Paul, then couldn’t He show us the same? Haven’t we tasted the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in our own lives? God in kindness has freely and fully given us miserable, wretched sinners His grace.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
For by grace…through faith: Here Paul expands upon what he mentioned parenthetically in v.5. Here divine sovereignty and human responsibility meet in the rugged realm of redemption. Grace is God’s part; faith is ours. God’s grace appeared and brought salvation and teaches us the appropriate and right response to all that God has done on our behalf (cf. Titus 2.11ff).
This is…the gift of God: That is, salvation by grace conditioned upon faith is a gift from God. Man is unable to save himself. Further, man neither initiated nor accomplished salvation. God did and He offers the gracious gift of salvation to man who receives it unto himself by obedient faith. We were saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved by God’s continued favor upon us as we continue to trust Him for all things.
9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Not a result…no one may boast: If salvation were by works grace would no longer be grace (see Romans 11.6). Whether the works of the Law of Moses or any works man might attempt to perform to placate the divine fury—it does not matter. All man’s righteous works are filthy rags before holy God (see Isaiah 64.6). It is the law of faith by which boasting is excluded (Rom 3.27).
There are a lot of people today who believe that “if you’re just a good person, God will overlook all the bad you do and take you to heaven.” This heresy is straight from the pit of hell! Salvation by grace through faith is not of works. No amount of good deeds can atone for even one sin. “I’m basically a good person” is the statement of someone who does not know that Jesus says “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10.18). Further, the Bible says, “None is righteous, no not one…no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10, 12). So, according to God’s word, no one is “basically a good person” and no amount of good works will save us because our good works are really polluted garments.
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
For we are His workmanship: Or His masterpiece. Lit. We are that which God has made. This is language which harkens to God’s creative power. But though the creation of the world was grand, the new creation is grander! To bring a world out of nothing is great; to restore that world from chaos is greater! We have been made anew by God (cf 2 Cor 5.17). So we are His people, possession, prize, (see Psalm 100.3).
Created…for good works: Good works will not save us. But in Christ Jesus we are made to engage in good works. Having been spiritually renewed we can fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.
Which God prepared beforehand: From eternity, God purposed that those whom He would create new in Christ would engage in good works (as opposed to evil works). “Before the foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by grace [thru faith] should walk in good works” (PC 64).
That we should walk in them: In time, God has a blueprint for our lives which we are to live by. This walk is the habitual practice, the career of those saved by grace. “He who is not holy in his life is not saved by the grace of Christ” (Adam Clarke). “If we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to believe that we have been saved by grace” (PC 64). “Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show the Spirit’s work in you” (Ryle 47). One cannot claim to be saved but refuse to serve.
If we would become the masterpiece of God (“His workmanship”), we must be “in Christ Jesus” and “saved by grace through faith.” Further, to truly be God’s masterpiece, we must engage in the works He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.
Following the opening doxology (3-14), Paul launches into a prayer for his readers (15ff). Like the doxology, this text is theocentric and Trinitarian, i.e. it is all about the Godhead.
Know His Purpose (15-18)
Paul prays for Christians to realize to what God has called them.
15For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
For this reason: The ground upon which Paul predicates his prayer (v.16) is the wealth of the spiritual blessings lavished upon these Christians by the Father (3-6), the Son (7-11), and the Holy Spirit (12-14). Based on what God has done through, for, and in Christ he lifts his heart in prayer.
Because I have heard…all the saints: cf. Colossians 1.4. The language seems to indicate that Paul had never met these saints (unlike the Ephesians with whom he lived for three years). Perhaps a larger audience than the Ephesians was the intended target. Nevertheless, Paul had heard of the fruit of the faith. Perhaps someone like Epaphras or Tychicus brought him a report of the progress of their faith and love toward all the saints. Or their “love toward God’s people as an outgrowth of their faith in Christ” (Patzia 165). The triad of faith, hope, and love appear here (v.12, 15, 18).
16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
I do not cease…for you: Paul was constant in his praise and thanksgiving for these brethren. Paul was frequently and regularly giving thanks for these Christians “love with faith” (6.23).
Remembering you in my prayers: Imagine the apostle Paul praying for you! He regularly made petition (Gk proseuchon) for these Christians to God. Specifically…
17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
That the God…Father of glory: Two theological principles are found here in Paul’s prayer for these Christians. First, he addresses the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His human nature God is God of Jesus (see v.3). To us Jesus Christ is Lord. Further, Jesus reveals God as Father (see John 14-17). Second, he describes God as the Father of glory. That is, He is the Author or Source of glory. Following the Incarnation, the Father glorifies the Son (John 17.5).
Concerning God…Father Lenski says: “Both terms of this double designation pertain to the blessings which Paul requests for the Ephesians. Since God is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may freely ask of him, as Paul does, all that God has provided for us in our Lord Jesus Christ; and since he is the Father of the glory, we may freely ask him to help us to see and to realize this glory of his as it manifests itself in our exalted Lord for our salvation.”
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937). 392-93.
May give you a spirit of wisdom: Like “a spirit of holiness” (Rom 1.4) or “a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6.1), this is a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit of wisdom. Apart from the Holy Spirit, there can be no distribution of wisdom and understanding. God…the Father will through the Holy Spirit give them spiritual wisdom…
And of revelation…of Him: some writers explain this as the capacity to apprehend the wisdom given by the Spirit (e.g. Blaikie 6). Most connect this verse with Colossians 1.9. What is revealed is the [full] knowledge of Him (i.e. God). These Christians are to be marked by wisdom derived from God’s revelation of Himself.
Burton Coffman says, “There is still a need for Christians to pray that God will help them to understand the revelation of the sacred Scripture, because most of its marvelous teachings require more than a little application and serious study to be clearly understood.” We come to know God and are made wise unto salvation. We should pray that God continue to make known to us Himself by His word to us and through the Holy Spirit living in us.
18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Having the eyes…enlightened: This stand in contrast with being “darkened in their understanding” (4.18). God does the enlightening (passive voice) and illumination occurred at the baptistery (perfect tense; cf. 1 Peter 2.9). We are the illuminated and God desires to illuminate all men (cf. 3.9, “making known”). “The eye is the instrument by which we see; and in like manner the understanding is that by which we perceive truth” (Barnes). Since this is the “heart” (sing.) of the body, we are talking about something spiritual, in the “inner being” (3.16). This enlightenment leads to knowledge of three (3) things…
That you may know…He has called you: Here is the first illuminated truth Paul desires for his readers to know: The Christian’s hope. These Christians possess the Holy Spirit as a guarantee(v.14) and are aware of God’s faithfulness. Thus, when He calls people to something, hope can be said to be “confident expectation.” Paul wants these Christians to know the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven.
What are the riches…in the saints: Here is the second illuminated truth: God’s rich inheritance. Paul prays that these Christians would have a deeper understanding of what it means to be God’s possession. As God’s heritage, walk in the wealth of His glory.
The church is a thinking community and should stand in stark contrast with our society which has largely stopped thinking. Failure to think breeds ignorance both in secular spheres and sacred. “The church should first of all be a community of thinkers – not thinking in distinction from action, but thinking as the basis for action. Ignorance is an ethical issue” (Snodgrass 88, emphasis original). We should have the reputation of people who think. Historically, this has been the case; presently, it should be. Further, we used to be known as “people of the Book.” We could give book, chapter, and verse for what we believe. Are we still known by the moniker and if not why not?
Barnes says: The idea here is, that Paul not only wished their “hearts” to be right, but he wished their “understanding” to be right also. Religion has much to do in enlightening the mind. Indeed, its effect there is not less striking and decisive than it is on the heart. The understanding has been blinded by sin. The views which people entertain of themselves and of God are narrow and wrong. The understanding is enfeebled and perverted by the practice of sin. It is limited in its operations by the necessity of the case, and by the impossibility of fully comprehending the great truths which pertain to the divine administration. One of the first effects of true religion is on the understanding. It enlarges its views of truth; gives it more exalted conceptions of God; corrects its errors; raises it up toward the great Fountain of love. And nowhere is the effect of the true religion more apparent than in shedding light on the intellect of the world, and restoring the weak and perverted mind to a just view of the proportion of things, and to the true knowledge of God.
Know His Power (19-22)
Paul prays for Christians to know God’s unknowable power in Christ Who is head of all things.
19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
What is the immeasurable…us who believe: Here is the third illuminated truth: God’s limitless and unknowable power. God is omnipotent, possessing all power (see Isa 45.7). It is by that power that He 1) secured the means of redemption, 2) safeguards the Christian’s future reward, & 3) secured His eternal inheritance. This power is available exclusively to the Christian community (“us who believe”), i.e. the Church.
According to…His great might: lit. according to the energy of the power of His strength. Paul uses four (4) words to express God’s power. The emphasis here is that nothing is impossible for God, specifically in conjunction with the resurrection and exaltation of Christ…
“LITTLE do men imagine what power is necessary to effect the salvation of their souls.” Paul prays these Ephesian Christians would know that power; it might as well be our prayer today. Oh that we could come to know the unknowable power of God – to save, sanctify, and glorify us! Teach us, Father!
The power Christians have is not intrinsic power, something they have in themselves, but a power that comes from God.  The resurrection of Jesus as well as His consequent exaltation to the right hand of God are demonstrations of that fantastic power. God’s power is manifested in the various parts of a Christian’s life:
- In the Beginning – at conversion. Remember, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation
- In progress – our sanctification. See 1 Peter 1.5
- In Glorification – Phil 3.21
When we know the excessive greatness of this power, nothing will ever disturb our hope. Other men also hope; alas, their hopes are built on air, there is no power to fulfill their hopes, to bestow that for which they hope.
 Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 17: Galatians-Ephesians (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833). 283.
 Snodgrass 91.
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937). 397.
20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
That He worked…from the dead: In the historical event of the resurrection of Christ God put His infinite might on display. The miraculous event included not merely the reanimation of the dead body, but the transforming of that body. That same power works in the Church.
Seated Him…the heavenly places: Paul continues by explaining that God’s “mighty strength” is on display not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in His exaltation to the right hand of God in the heavenly places. Cf. Psalm 110.1. “The right hand is the place of friendship, honor, confidence, and authority” (Clarke). Christ is exalted to a position of authority—from the tomb to the throne; from “a worm and not a man” to King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Psa 22.6; Rev 19.16).
21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Far above all…dominion: Jesus declared He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28.18). The general sense of this phrase is that Jesus has been exalted to the highest conceivable authority. While there is debate about whether Paul has earthly or ethereal governments here, since Jesus’ ascension was into the heavenly realms and thereby into the spiritual realms, it seems best to understand these generally as spiritual forces (cf. 2.2; 3.10; 6.12). Specifically, rule is one order of spiritual beings, authority is another, power another, and dominion still another. While some scholars attempt to make a distinction between each of these classes, New Testament usage does not lend itself to noting significant distinctions between these forces and powers. What is heightened and deepened is the universal lordship of Christ.
Above every name that is named: Scholars believe this is directly connected to the Ephesian cult practices. “This particular phrase is loaded with significance for exorcism and magical incantation both in Judaism and the pagan world…Supernatural ‘powers’ were called upon by name through these means [amulets, charms, or gems] by one who desired access to their power and assistance” (Arnold 54). Paul is emphatic—no conceivable spiritual force is beyond the sovereign domain of Christ. After all, He created them (Col 1.16).
Not only…the one to come: Jesus’ Name is above all names in this world and the one to come.
Special Study – Ghosts, Ghouls, & Other Ethereal Beings
I’ve been asked by several people – young and old – about ghosts and demons. I once took a call where for an hour this man explained that he was having demons run around his house. Young people are usually asking about ghosts. I once spent the afternoon with a member’s sister who was a medium – she could contact the dead and had been used by local law enforcement to track down dead bodies.
My initial advice to everybody: stay away from that stuff. There really are spiritual forces of darkness and last time I checked we’re at war with them (Eph 6.10ff). So stay away from Ouija boards, witchcraft, spells, dark arts, etc. Indeed, Isaiah 8.19. They are consulting something, but it isn’t a dead loved one. When a person dies, their soul goes to the hadean realm, i.e. the unseen realm of disembodied spirits. But if you knock on the devil’s door long enough, do be surprised at who answers!
Here’s the point: if Jesus is greater than the whole horde of the spirit realm, why would we pursue the lesser thing? Further, if Jesus has triumphed over these spiritual forces and we are in Christ, then what have we too fear? Spiritists, mediums, witches, and the like cannot lay a finger on the redeemed of God because we have Him who has been seated “far above” all the spiritual forces of darkness.
22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
He put all things under His feet: cf. Psalm 110.1. Christ is the victor in His conquest of all spiritual forces. He is rule is sovereign over everything—visible and invisible, material and immaterial, animate and inanimate, hostile and friendly.
Gave Him…[to] the church: Note: this verse does not explicitly say Jesus is head of the church; it says Jesus is head over all things and He assumes this role as Head over everything for His Bride. Lenski calls this “a gift of grace to the church” for it speaks of Christ being in control of everything for the benefit of His body.
23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Which is His body: lit. she is His body. Implied is that Christ is the head (see 5.23).
The fullness of Him who fills all in all: The church is the Filler’s fullness. He is the Onw who fills all things, everything. Yet, even as He fills everything in every way, Christ is filled (lit. complete) with His body. Physically, the head needs the body. In a similar fashion, the spiritual Head needs His body. As it was not good for Adam to be alone, so it is not good for the 2nd Adam not to have His body & bride—the Church.
“Christ is the head; the Church is the body. A head by itself is no use; a mind, a brain by itself is of no use. The head must have a body which it can direct; the brain, the mind must have a body through which it can work. The church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run upon His errands, a voice to speak His words.” (Barclay 108).
There is sense in which the Savior is incomplete without somebody saved, the Redeemer is lacking without someone in distress to rescue. It was Augustine who said, ““Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”” But perhaps it can also be said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and your heart is restless until we find rest in Thee.” If we properly understand this verse, it is both humbling and dignifying – humbling that we complete the Filler’s fullness and dignifying as presenting us with the purpose of our existence.