Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 1:1-10
Posted by Dim Bulb on August 20, 2016
This post includes Fr. Callan’s summary of the greeting (Eph 1:1-2); the dogmatic part of the Epistle (Eph 1:3-3:21), and his summary of Eph 1:3-14.
INSCRIPTION AND EPISTOLARY GREETING
A Summary of Eph 1:1-2~St. Paul addresses his readers in the usual manner, asserting his divine election and commission to preach the Gospel of Christ, and wishing them grace and peace, which divine favors are respectively the source and the fruit of their supernatural union with God through Christ.
1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.
Paul. It is to be noted that, whereas in the other Captivity Epistles Timothy’s name is associated with Paul’s, here, as in Rom., Gal., and the Pastoral letters, only the name of Paul is mentioned. As Timothy had been with Paul at Ephesus and was therefore well
known to the Ephesians, the omission of his name in the greeting of this Epistle is taken as an argument that the letter was not directed to the Church of Ephesus (see Introduction, No. IV).
Apostle, that is, a legate to whom is committed a mission with power and authority. Hence, the term implies more than messenger and it is applied in the New Testament to those who have been designated to preach the Gospel. By this title, therefore, Paul claims to be Christ’s legate, sent and commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel. Thus, our Lord said : “As thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).
By the will of God, that is, Paul’s mission is both gratuitous and divine, and not the result of his own merits or choice. He has not taken the honor to himself, but has been called by God, as Aaron was (cf. Heb. 5:4).
To all the Saints. The omnibus of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek. “Saints,” that is, those who by Baptism have been consecrated to God and live in union with Jesus Christ.
At Ephesus. These words are wanting in some of the best MSS., and are omitted by Origen, Basil, and other Fathers; they are probably not authentic. Tertullian tells us that Marcion in the second century knew this letter as the Epistle “To the Laodiceans,” which may have been the correct inscription (see Introduction, No. IV).
Faithful. This is a term frequently used by St. Paul. It designates those who with mind and heart have freely embraced the faith of Christ, subjecting themselves to His will and service.
2. Grace be to you, and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace . . . peace. This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.
From God the Father, etc. In these words we have indicated the author and the fountain-head of the blessing which the Apostle imparts. Since the same divine favor is asked from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have here a proof of the divinity of our Lord: He and the Father are one (John 10:30).
THE DOGMATIC PART OF THE EPISTLE
A Summary of Eph 1:3-3:21~These three chapters constitute a sublime hymn of praise to God for the special divine blessings that have been vouchsafed to the whole world through Christ, our Redeemer and the Head of the Church. The Apostle begins with an act of thanksgiving, which recalls God’s eternal decree of love in our behalf (Eph 1:3-14); then he considers this decree as fulfilled in the Church, where the distinction between Jews and Gentiles has been blotted out (Eph 1:15-2:22); next he reflects on the special part that has fallen to him in revealing this mystery to the Gentiles (Eph 3:2-13); finally, he utters the prayer for the “Ephesians,” begun in iii. i and continued in Eph 3:14-19 after being interrupted by the digression of Eph 3:2-13, and closes with a doxology (Eph 3:20-21).
A HYMN OF PRAISE TO GOD FOR THE BLESSINGS WE HAVE RECEIVED THROUGH CHRIST
A Summary of Eph 1:3-14~In St. Paul’s time it was the custom to begin an ordinary letter with thanksgiving and prayer. The Apostle conformed to this convention in opening his Epistles, varying as a rule the wording of the formula.
This whole section in the original forms but one sentence, consisting of a long chain of clauses and constituting a sort of hymn in three parts, of which each ends with the refrain, “to the praise of his glory” (verses 3-6, 7-12, 13-14)? Verse 3 is an outburst of praise to God for all the blessings conferred on us in Christ, and the following verses are an amplification of this central thought as it unfolds in meditation. As his conceptions evolve, the Apostle ascribes to each of the three divine Persons of the most holy Trinity the action which by appropriation belongs to Him in the work of our redemption. Thus, in Eph 1:3-6 he speaks of the eternal Father who from eternity chose us as His adopted children; in Eph 1:7-13a he considers the execution of this eternal decree in time towards Jews and Gentiles through the meritorious blood of Christ; and in Eph 1:13b- 14 he turns to the Holy Ghost who through grace applies redemption to all, and whom believing we have received as the pledge of our eternal inheritance.
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ:
Blessed, i.e., worthy of praise.
The God and Father, etc. More probably both “God” and “Father”—and not the word “Father” only—govern the genitive case that follows, because in Greek there is just one article, modifying “God,” and none before “Father”; so that the sense is: “Blessed be our God and Father, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Cf. John 20:17: “I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.”
Who blessed us, i.e., you Gentiles and us Jews, all of whom are made partakers of the blessings of the Gospel. The reference is to God’s eternal purpose towards the elect, and hence we should read, “Who blessed us,” the definitely past tense.
With all spiritual blessings. The blessings now conferred on the faithful in Christianity are spiritual, as opposed to carnal and terrestrial goods, and as coming from the Holy Ghost and pertaining to man’s higher nature, such as redemption, remission of sins, filiation, and the like. In the Old Testament the rewards promised were temporal (cf. Gen 22:17; Deut 28:1-13, etc.).
In heavenly places (literally, In the heavenlies) . This unusual phrase occurs four more times in this Epistle (Eph 1:20, Eph 2:6, Eph 3:10, Eph 6:12), but nowhere else; and each time there is question of locality, save the last, perhaps. These blessings therefore come from heaven and lead to heaven, they are both present and future; and they are given “in Christ”—that is, through Christ, by virtue of our union with Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life that lead to the Father. Christ is the head, and we are the members of His mystical body, the Church; we share in His life. This doctrine of the union of the faithful with Christ, their mystical head, is uppermost in this section and throughout the whole Epistle. The phrase “in Christ” is found twenty-nine times in the Pauline Epistles, and only three times elsewhere, and that in 1 Peter. In forty-three other passages of St. Paul we find the enlarged phrase, “in Christ Jesus,” and four times “in the Christ.” Everywhere these phrases denote our close union with Christ as members of His mystical body.
4. As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity.
The Apostle now begins to explain God’s eternal decree in behalf of Christians. The Eternal Father chose us from eternity, that we might be holy and immaculate in His eyes, and out of love for us He freely predestined us to be His adopted children through His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 4-6).
As. This word connects the preceding verse with the present one, and the meaning is that the spiritual blessings which Christians now enjoy are the logical consequence of God’s eternal decree in their regard.
He chose us, i.e.. He selected Christians, apart from the rest of mankind, to be His special people, “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).
In Him, i.e., in Christ, as members of His mystical body. Christians are not conceived apart from Christ, their mystical head, either in God’s eternal decree or in time.
Before the foundation, etc., i.e., prior to all creation, from everlasting.
That we should be holy, that is, graced with virtues and free from vice. The reference is to an actual state of moral rectitude, and not to a future condition, nor to a merely external and imputed justice.
In his sight, i.e., in the eyes of God, who reads the secrets of the heart, to whom nothing is hid (Ps 7:9; Matt 5:48, Matt 6:4, Matt 6:6, Mat 6:18; Heb 4:13).
In charity, i.e., in love. Whether this love is divine or human, depends on the connection of this phrase with what precedes in the verse or with what follows. Some authorities connect it with “chose,” and so there would be question of God’s love which chose us; but this explanation is not likely, as the verb “chose” is too far separated from the phrase “in charity.” Many others, ancient and modern, connect the phrase with “holy and unspotted,” and thus the meaning would be that charity is the formal cause of our sanctification, and that charity is at once the bond and the crown of Christian virtues. St. Jerome and St. John Chrysostom, however, make the connection with what follows in the next verse, “predestinated,” and hence make the love of God for us the supreme cause of our predestination to be His adopted children. In this whole section the Apostle seems to be saying that love for us has been at the bottom of God’s free choice of us, and the motive of our predestination. Thus also St. John says: “God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son, etc.” (John 3:16). Our adoption as children through Christ, therefore, is due only to God’s paternal love for us.
5. Who predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will:
Who predestinated us. Those who connect “in charity” of the preceding verse with this verse read as follows: “Who predestinated us in charity.” According to our way of thinking, predestination presupposes election, and election presupposes love. Thus, God first loved us, then chose us, and then predestined us. It is to be noted that there is question here, directly, only of predestination to faith and grace in this life; but of course, since faith and grace are themselves ordained to eternal salvation and given for that purpose, there would be also question here, indirectly, of predestination to final salvation. In either sense the predestination is gratuitous, in no way dependent on our merits.
Unto the adoption, etc. The proximate purpose of divine predestination was that we might become adopted children of God. The Son of God became man that men might become the sons of God, as St. Augustine says (cf. Gal 4:4-6). Perfect adoption consists in our transformation into the likeness of the glorious risen Saviour in the life to come, and presupposes as a means to this great end our present transformation by virtue into the likeness of Jesus. The use of the term “adoption” as applied to Christians is peculiarly Pauline. It is found five times in his Epistles (Gal 4:5; Rom 8:15, Rom 8:23, Rom 9:4; Eph 1:5), and nowhere else in the Bible.
Through Jesus Christ. Our adoption as sons of God is conferred through our Lord, as our Redeemer and Mediator: “You are all the children of God by faith, in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).
Unto himself, i.e., unto the Father, Our redemption originated with the Father and goes back to Him as its end. The eternal purpose of the Father was “that we should be called, and should be the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). A less probable interpretation refers “unto himself” to the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to the purpose, etc. Better, “according to the good pleasure, etc.” Here we have indicated the radical reason and the true efficient cause of our redemption, election, etc., namely, the gratuitous will of God. Hence St. Thomas says: “Praedestinationis divinae nulla alia causa est, nec esse potest, quam simplex Dei voluntas. Unde patet etiam, quod divinse voluntatis praedestinantis non est alia ratio, quam divina bonitas filiis communicanda.”
The will of God is “the ultimate account of all divine procedure, from the creature’s point of view. Nothing in that Will is capricious; all is supremely wise and good. But it enfolds an ‘unseen universe’ of reasons and causes wholly beyond our discovery; and here precisely is one main field for the legitimate exercise of faith; personal confidence as to the unknown reasons for the revealed action of a Known God” (Bishop Moule, Epistle to the Ephesians, hoc loco).
6. Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he graced us in the beloved.
Unto the praise, etc. Now the Apostle points out the final cause of God’s love, choice, predestination and adoption of us Christians. The divine will actuated by love was the prime moving cause on God’s part, and His glory is the final cause of the whole divine process in our regard. “Grace” here means not so much the supernatural gift of grace as the fountain of God’s gifts, or His liberality and benevolence; and this benevolence of God towards us is described as shining, or gloriously manifesting itself. Hence, the final cause of our adoption as sons of God through Christ—that to which our adoption was ordained as regards God—is praise, or the public and jubilant exaltation in the sight of men and angels of the divine munificence gloriously manifesting itself towards us (Voste, Epist. ad Eph.).
By which, etc. The preposition in of the Vulgate should be omitted here, as it is not represented in the best Greek MSS., where we read ης (a genitive by attraction of the preceding noun χαριτος, for the accusative or the dative). We should therefore translate: “By which, etc.”
He graced us. The verb here is aorist, referring to a definitely past action. It is a rare verb which is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 1:28, and its meaning here goes back to the corresponding word in the verse, χάρις, which we said meant benevolence. Therefore the sense of the verb εχαριτωσεν in this passage is to pursue with benevolence. Hence the meaning is that God, pursuing us with His benevolence, has rendered us lovable or gracious. Explaining this verb St. Chrysostom says: “He not only delivered us from sin, but He made us lovable”; and Theodoret has: “The death of the Lord made us worthy of love.”
In the beloved (εν τω ηγαπημενω) . In the Vulgate the words filio suo are added as an explanation of dilecto. The meaning is given by Monod: “The Son, lovable in Himself, is essentially The Beloved; we, unlovable in ourselves, are accepted because of, and in, the Beloved; and if we are called beloved in our turn, it is because God sees us in His Son” (Aux Ephes., quoted by Moule, op. cit, hoc loco). Thus, the grace of adoption has come to us, not on account of any merit of ours, but only through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God. It is to be noted that St. Paul is everywhere insistent on the mediatorial merits of Christ.
7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace,
Having considered the eternal decree by which God chose and predestined us to be His adopted children, the Apostle now proceeds (Eph 1:7-14) to speak of the execution of this decree in time. “Loving us from eternity. He has rendered us lovable in time” (Corluy). Jesus, the Incarnate Word, has redeemed us from sin by His blood (Eph 1:7); in consequence we have received in the supernatural order all wisdom and prudence (Eph 1:8), the supreme mystery of the will of God to unite all things in Christ being made known (Eph 1:9-10). All these things have happened to Jews and Gentiles, called together into the New Israel (Eph 1:11-13a), the Holy Spirit, the pledge of our eternal inheritance, being poured out on all (Eph 1:13b-14). Cf. Voste, op. cit., hoc loco.
In whom, i.e., in the beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ. In virtue of our union with Him “we have redemption, etc.,” that is, liberation from the devil and sin, and from the anger of God, which redemption our Saviour has purchased for us by the shedding of His blood for us on the cross (Matt 20:28; Col 1:14, Col 1:20; 1 Pet 1:18 ff; 1 Cor 6:20, etc.). Our redemption has been effected by the voluntary offering on the part of Christ of His life as a ransom-price for our souls; Christ died that we might live.
The remission of sins. This explains in what our redemption consisted, namely, in the forgiveness of our sins (or, literally, trespasses of all kinds).
According to the riches, etc. This is a favorite phrase with St. Paul, by which he wishes to show the immensity of God’s goodness and love towards us. It would have been a great favor merely to have received God’s forgiveness, and a still greater favor to have received it through the giving of His divine Son for us; but to be forgiven at the price of the pouring out of the very blood of God’s only Son, this manifests a love for us on the part of the Eternal Father which surpasses all bounds, and which is, therefore, “according to the riches of His grace.” The shedding of blood was an acknowledgment of God’s supreme dominion over life and death which sin had challenged, suffering made atonement for transgression, and merit won back the graces lost (cf. Hitchcock, op. cit., hoc loco).
8. Which he caused to abound in us in all wisdom and prudence;
Which he caused to abound in us. The Greek here reads: ης επερισσευσεν, the genitive of attraction ης being used for the accusative ην. The subject of the verb is God, understood. Hence we should read: “Which (grace) he (God) caused to abound in us.”
In all wisdom, etc. The grace of God which has abounded in our favor has not only procured for us remission of sins, but it has also given us insight into the mysteries of the divine will.
“Wisdom” (σοφια) means a knowledge of principles, and here it has reference to a speculative knowledge of the great mysteries of faith. “Prudence,” or “intelligence” (φρονησει) , pertains to actions, and is a practical knowledge of good to be done or evil to be avoided; prudence or intelligence is the wisdom of the just (Luke 1:17). Some expositors think there is question here of the wisdom and prudence which God has exercised, rather than of the wisdom and prudence which He has communicated to the faithful; but the common opinion and the context of verse 9 favor the latter view.
9. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in him,
The Apostle now proceeds to show how God has made His grace to abound in all wisdom and prudence in the saints, namely, by making known to them and helping them to understand the divine purpose, long concealed but now revealed through the Incarnation, of uniting all things in Christ.
Having made known, etc. γνωρισας is from the Greek word (γνωρίζω) implies the revelation of hidden truths, and it occurs frequently in St. Paul. The time referred to is the actual revelation of the Gospel.
The mystery, etc., i.e., the hidden secret of His will or purpose to unite all, Jews and Gentiles, in Christ—to make Christ the term and, as it were, the synthesis of the whole re-established supernatural order (Voste). The word μυστηριον occurs twenty-one times in St. Paul, and six times in this Epistle. In the Vulgate it is rendered eight times by sacramentum (including the present passage), and at other times by mysterium. It would be better to translate it everywhere by mysterium, and thus avoid the confusion arising from the technical meaning now given to the word sacrament.
According to his good pleasure, i.e., according to the good pleasure of the Father who has made known to the saints the hidden purpose of His will.
Which he purposed in him, i.e., in the Son (εν αυτω), the Messiah. The Father’s purpose was in Christ, the Son, inasmuch as it was to be realized through the Son (omnia per Ipsum facta sunt, et iterum omnia per Ipsum reconcilianda et restituenda sunt).
10. In the dispensation of the fullness of times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in him.
In the dispensation, etc. The Greek word οικονομιαν, here rendered “dispensation,” really means stewardship, house-management; and the sense of this passage, in connection with the preceding verse, is that, when sin had disrupted the primitive harmony of creation, the Eternal Father purposed or decreed to send His Son into the world when the time determined by Himself had arrived, and to make Him the supreme head and administrator of all things in His spiritual household, the Church, for the purpose of reuniting and reconciling all things to Himself through this same divine Son. This work of recapitulating and reconciling all things in Christ began with the Incarnation, but it will not be completed till the end of the world, at the general resurrection.
All things, etc., i.e., men and angels, the material universe and the spiritual, are all made subject to Christ, the supreme head of the supernatural order, and all are to be reunited and reconciled to the Father through Christ, since all are in need of this reunion and reconciliation, all having been thrown into disharmony by sin. The Greek verb here translated “to re-establish” means “to restore,” “to reunite.” In the beginning all creatures—angels, men and the physical world—formed one grand, harmonious family all subject to God. But sin disrupted this primeval unity and subordination of part to part and of the whole to the Creator; and so the Eternal Father sent His Son to reunite the dissevered parts of His Creation and to restore the original harmony between the rational and the irrational, earth and heaven, men and angels (cf. Rom 8:19 ff.). Thus, the redemption equals creation in its extension. All things were created through the Word, and all things must be summed up and reconciled to the Father through the Word.
In him, i.e., in Christ, a repetition for the sake of emphasis; but the phrase ought to be connected with the following verse.