The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians 2:4-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 10, 2015

This post opens with Father MacEvilly’s brief summary analysis of Ephesians 2 followed by his comments on today’s reading (Eph 2:4-10). Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle applies to the Ephesians in particular, what he had said in general regarding the power of God exerted in the spiritual resuscitation of sinners (chap. 1 verse 19). He depicts the wretched condition of the Ephesians when dead in sin; and he shows, that the same description applied to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles (1–3). He also shows how, through the infinite mercy of God, they were resuscitated unto a spiritual resurrection—of which the resurrection of Christ was the model—and made sharers in his heavenly kingdom (4–7). He reminds them, that those favours were purely the result of God’s gratuitous goodness, without any merits of theirs; for, their justification was a kind of new creation, and as well might the world glory in its production out of nothing, as they, in their new spiritual existence (8–12). In order to inspire them with due feelings of gratitude, and to stimulate them to serve God with greater fervour, he tells them, in the next place, to keep always in mind, their former spiritual destitution, and wretched state, and their present blessedness secured for them through the merits of Christ; and he explains how Christ brought about such exalted ends (11–19). From all this he concludes, that they are no longer strangers, but domestics of God; and he illustrates the union that subsisted between the Ephesians and the rest of the faithful by the metaphor of a spiritual edifice of which they form a part, having been built on Christ and his Apostles.

Eph 2:4 But God (who is rich in mercy) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us

God, who is rich in mercy, owing to the excessive charity with which he loved us,

“But God.” The particle “but,” which breaks the sentence, has been introduced, in the opinion of St. Jerome, by some copyist, or, its introduction may be owing to the ardour of the Apostle. “His exceeding charity.” God’s love for us may be justly termed excessive, and hence his passion is termed “his excess” in the Gospel. The master is humbled for the slave, the Creator for the work of his own hands, an outraged God submits to unparalleled torture to atone for the outrages offered himself by a sinful creature. Good God! how the thought of thy Passion, with all its circumstances, confounds all human reasoning. Ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti.

Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ (by whose grace you are saved)

Even when, like you (verse 1) we were spiritually dead in our sins, bestowed upon us spiritual life, after the example of Christ, by raising us from spiritual death, as he raised him from the grave (by whose grace you have been saved).

From verse 1 to verse 4, should be included in a parenthesis. The Apostle here repeats what he commenced in verse 1, with merely a difference of person, “us” for “you,” (verse 1). “And when we were dead in sins, he quickened us,” (of course the word “you,” is also included). “Together in Christ,” i.e., after the example of Christ. His resurrection was the model of our spiritual resuscitation from the grave of sin. (“By whose grace,” &c.); “whose” is not in the Greek, which runs thus, χαριτι εστε σεσωσμεν οι, by grace, ye are saved.

Eph 2:6 And hath raised us up together and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus.

And rendered us partakers of the new and glorified life of Christ, and made us sit with him in heaven, by the assurance and pledge given us, that our present hopes shall, at a future day, be surely realized.

“And hath raised us up together,” &c., is understood by some of a spiritual resuscitation from sin to a life of justice, thereby causing us to have our conversation with Christ in heaven. Others make it refer to the future resurrection and glorification of our bodies, which, although a future event, is still read in the past tense. “Hath raised us up,” on account of the certainty of its accomplishment. The Apostle here refers to the exercise of the power of which he spoke, verse 19, of preceding chapter. Hence, it includes our spiritual resurrection at present, and the future resurrection of our bodies, and all has been effected “through Christ Jesus.”

Eph 2:7 That he might shew in the ages to come the abundant riches of his grace, in his bounty towards us in Christ Jesus.

And all this he has done for the purpose of manifesting in future ages, unto the end of time, the abundant riches of his grace by the benignity he has shown us in Christ Jesus—that thus he may be glorified in his gifts.

“Ages to come,” are understood by some of the time after the general judgment. They more probably refer, however (as in Paraphrase), to the ages that are to elapse from the coming of Christ to the end of the world. “In his bounty towards us.” He has displayed his superabundant riches in the magnitude and number of the blessings conferred on us through Christ Jesus.

Eph 2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God.

For, it is owing to the gratuitous benefits of Christ, you have obtained initial salvation, or justification through faith; and this faith is not of yourselves, it is to be classed as a grace; for, it is the gift of God.

The Apostle here shows why it is he said in the preceding verse, that the final cause of God’s blessings towards us was to manifest the abundant riches of his grace, “for, by grace you are saved,” which is generally understood of justification, which is initial salvation, and which, if persevered in, will infallibly lead to consummate salvation. It is through faith also we obtain this salvation or justification, which faith, although not absolutely the first grace received by infidels, who receive many actual graces before it: (hence, the proposition, fides est prima gratia, was condemned in the bull, “Auctorem fidei,”) is still the first grace in the order of justification, being, according to the Council of Trent, initium humanæ Salutis, radix et fundamentum omnis justificationis.—(SS. vi. chapter 8). St. Paul, far from supposing faith itself not to be a grace, supposes it to be the first in the order of graces, by which we are justified. “And this not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God.” Some include these words within a parenthesis. They make “this” refer to faith, as if he said: I do not exclude faith from the number of graces to which I ascribe justification, for, “it is a gift of God,” and they connect “not of works,” in the following verse, with “you are saved through faith … not of works,” &c. Others make “this” refer to salvation through faith, but it would be quite a useless tautology in that case; for, by saying “by grace,” he would have sufficiently conveyed that it was “not of yourselves.” From this passage many of the Holy Fathers proved that faith was the gift of God.

Eph 2:9 Not of works, that no man may glory.

By faith, and not by works preceding faith, you have been saved, or justified; that no man may glory as if he was justified through any merit of his own.

He speaks of works performed by their own natural powers, without faith; for, he opposes such works to faith (verse 8), and it is only in such works a “man could glory.” He is here speaking of first justification, which we must all hold to be quite gratuitous, and to which no merits on our part, either actual or foreseen, could give a claim.

Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.

For, we are his workmanship, having received from him a second creation in our spiritual regeneration in baptism through Christ Jesus, for the purpose of performing the good and holy works which lie prepared, in order that we should perseveringly exercise ourselves in them.

We are, in our justification, his creation, his work, which proves that justification is to be ascribed to God’s grace, and not to our own natural strength. Hence, we have no more cause for glorying in our justification, which is a kind of second creation conferred on us, through the merits of Christ, than would the world have for glorying in its first creation. “In good works,” i.e., for, or, unto good works. The Hebrew idiom often gives, in, the meaning of, unto, for. “Which God has prepared,” &c. God is said to prepare good works, by determining to grant us grace, the seed without which no good works conducing to salvation could exist. There is no argument here against our own free co-operation in the work of justification; because the implied comparison between our justification and creation is introduced merely for the purpose of showing the utter gratuitousness of justification, and how little grounds it leaves for glorying. Qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te.—St. Augustine.


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