Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 2:12-22
Posted by Dim Bulb on October 20, 2012
This post includes notes on verse 11. Notes in red, if any, are my additions.
11. On this account remember and bear in mind, that you Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh done with hands.
12. That you were at that time without Christ, alienated from the conversation of Israel, and strangers to the testaments, having not the hope of the promise, and without God in this world.
13. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were afar off, have been brought near, in the blood of Christ.
(vs. 11) On this account, that you may better understand the immense benefit and advantage you have received by your regeneration, remember and bear in mind your former lost and hopeless condition, and your happy deliverance from it. You, who were Gentiles in carnal origin and by hereditary descent, in the flesh, were without any knowledge of Christ or faith in him. You were without a God, in reality atheists, for the gods you worshipped had no real existence. There cannot be a greater misery than for the soul of man to be without God, in whom alone it can find satisfaction, and without Christ, who is the interpreter and revealer to creation of the love of God. Even if a man could gain the whole world, and possess for eternity every pleasure created things could afford, these would soon cease to please, because nothing that is finite can fill the desires of the human soul, but leaves him m desolation and completely miserable. What does it profit, if a man gain all the world, and lose his soul? You had the world, but had lost God. In mundo, sine Christo, sine Deo (“in the world, without Christ, without God.” See vs. 12). And even that incomplete and partial knowledge of the true God, and ot Christ the coming Saviour of the world, which was retained among the people of the Jews, to facilitate the fulfilment of the promises made in ancient days, you, the Gentiles, did not possess. The inheritors of the circumcision—not the spiritual circumcision of the heart, which is the privilege of the Christian, but the outward circumcision made with hands—stigmatized you as the uncircumcision. You were alienated from the conversation of Israel (vs. 12), the chosen people of God, who were prohibited from entering into treaties of alliance with the Gentile nations (Deut 7:2) strangers to the covenants made with the nation of the Israelites, ignorant of the promise God had made to Abraham, to bless all the nations of the earth. (You were the nations of the earth, yet you lived throughout its wide extent, in huc mundo ["on this earth"], ignorant of its Creator.) All this you may usefully remember (vs. 11), in contrast with the position you now hold, in God’s sight.
There are three ways of recalling sin, one evil, the second dangerous, the third useful and advantageous. To remember sin with complacence, is mortal sin renewed, and incurs its guilt and malice over again. To remember sin with disquiet and distrust is dangerous, hindering progress and causing peril of relapse. To remember sin with contrition and gratitude for its forgiveness, increases grace, and glorifies God. It is this to which the Apostle invites the Ephesian Christians.
But remember also that from the time you believed in Christ, the blood of Christ has won for you, and conferred upon you, all that was wanting to you before (vs 13). You who were banished from God, from Christ, from the covenants, the promise, the society of Israel, from hope of salvation, are brought near to God, made one with Christ, become heirs of his promise of everlasting life, brought into the communion of the Holy Catholic Church, raised to heaven in anticipation and with Christ seated at God’s right hand in glory. There is evidently some strong reason which leads the Apostle to insist on enforcing the belief of the high privileges which the Christian faith had procured for the Ephesians, and that either Jewish influence or the pernicious doctrines of the heretics against whom this Epistle is principally directed, were dangerously likely to lead them to distrust the grace of Jesus Christ and the efficacy of the Sacraments of the Christian Church. The heretics made salvation dependent upon the acceptance of some hidden wisdom which they professed themselves able to impart, and which constituted the only true illumination of the soul.
14. For he is our peace, who made the two into one, destroying also the dividing wall of the building, the enmities in his own flesh.
He is our peacemaker or pacificator, who has not only reconciled us to God, but as a result of this reconciliation has conciliated the Jews and Gentiles together, and made them one people. And the wall of partition (the law of Moses) which separated Jews and Gentiles, he destroyed by the death which he suffered in his flesh abolished and replaced the law of commandments by the dogmas of the Gospel, so as to unite both Jews and Gentiles into one Church, which is figuratively one body, and new, founded by his Spirit on the day of Pentecost, reconciling them to God by the cross, by which he slew, at his own death, the enmities of former ages. And coming into this world he preached peace, by his Apostles to you who were at a distance, in his own person to the Jews, among whom he lived. There is therefore no ground for jealousy on your part, because the Gospel of God reached you through the preaching of Apostles who are all Jews. That was an economy of God to facilitate the establishment in the world of the truth of Christ’s resurrection, But Jews have no privileges in the Church of Christ which are not extended in equal measure to the Gentiles, and both are one people and one body in the faith of Jesus Christ.
The word maceria signifies a wall built of uncemented stone, and therefore easily destroyed. The Judaic law, says Theophylact, was a congeries of precepts, not bound together by charity, for the motive of obedience was not love, but fear. Christ by his death broke down, solvens (dissolve, break up), this law, while at the same time he fulfilled it. Christ, says the writer just quoted, dissolved the shadows of the law of ceremonies, while at the same time he exhibited its divine authority by the fulfilment of it; as a painter putting the finishing touches to his picture fills, while he obliterates, the outline his own hand has traced.
15. Abolishing the law of commandments by decrees; to build up the two in himself into one new man, making peace.
Abolished the law of commandment, by decrees. The Greek has in dogmas. The Syriac: Abolished the law of precepts by precepts of his own. The Arabic: Abrogated the law of commandments by his own decrees. The term dogma was popularly applied to the doctrines of the philosophical sects of that day; the Apostle here uses it to denote the truths of heaven, made known by Jesus Christ.
Almost all the interpreters, ancient and modern, understand the words in this sense; but Erasmus, Cajetan, Menochius, and Tyrinus read it, the law of commandments contained in decrees. The law of Moses contained a multiplicity of precepts relating,’ to things indifferent in themselves, sacred days, victims to be offered in sacrifice, meats to be avoided, &c., all which Christ abrogated by the law of faith. This, therefore, the older interpretation, seems to be more in accordance with the usual teaching of St. Paul.
16. And reconcile both in one body, to God through the cross, killing the enmities in himself.
Killing the enmities in himself. St. Jerome and the Syrian version both read in it, that is in the cross, but the sense of both readings is nearly the same. It is to be observed that the participles dissolving, abolishing, making peace, coming, are all in the past tense, in the Greek. The Latin language has no past active participle, and accordingly we have them in the Vulgate in the present tense.
17. And he came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and peace to those who were near.
Coming, he preached peace. An allusion to the words of the Angel in Luke 2:10, 14: I bring you good tidings of joy, peace on earth. Christ also himself preached peace to the nations; many shall come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, Matt 8:2. This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached all over the world, for a testimony to all nations, Matt 24:14. I will draw all to me, John 12:32. Go and teach all the nations, Matt 28:19. Christ therefore preached peace to them that were afar off, as well as to them that were near.
18. Because through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
The fruit of the Incarnation of Christ is that we are permitted with confidence to approach God as our Father, through the Spirit, by whose teaching we say Our Father.
18. Because through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
The fruit of the Incarnation of Christ is that we are permitted with confidence to approach God as our Father, through the Spirit, by whose teaching we say Our Father. This is the prime subject matter of chapter 2. Note the references to verses 12 &13 in the next note.
19. Therefore now you are not strangers and foreigners, but you are citizens of the saints, and domestics of God.
See You were strangers, (vs 12). You were without God, (vs 12), far from God, (vs 13). You are now no longer strangers and foreigners, but citizens; the Greek, fellow-citizens with the Saints. The Syriac: Sons of the city of the Saints, and sons of the house of God. Members of his Church, which is God’s house and family.
20. Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, the highest stone of the corner being Jesus Christ.
Built upon thefoundation of the Apostles and Prophets. For what the Apostles proclaimed, the Prophets had foretold, and the foundations laid by the Apostles had been prepared by the Prophets. In 1 Cor 3:11, Christ is spoken of as the foundation of the Church. The same figure is here varied, for the foundation is the teaching of Prophets and Apostles, and Christ is the corner stone, placed on the summit of the building, its crown and completion. For the Apostles laid the foundations on earth, and Christ will come from heaven to finish and crown their work. The placing of the corner stone on a public building, as the last completion of the structure, was an occasion of public ceremony and rejoicing. The stone which the builders rejected, is placed on the head of the corner, Ps 117:22. He shall bring out the corner stone, and give grace for grace, Zech 4:7.
21. In whom the whole building constructed grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22. In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit.
Bound together and compacted by the cornerstone, or as we say the key-stone, the whole building is rising into a consecrated temple of God, who dwells in it by his Spirit, and of this temple you and other nations of the Gentile world, hereafter to be converted, form a part.