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Archive for May 16th, 2017

Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 3:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 16, 2017

THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY THROUGH THE PREACHING OF ST. PAUL

A Summary of Ephesians 3:1-13~Having spoken in the first Chapter of this Epistle of God’s eternal purpose to unite Jewish and non-Jewish peoples in the one Church of Christ, and having shown in the second Chapter how this purpose has been realized in the present period of grace with its prospect of glorious consummation in the Church Triumphant hereafter, the Apostle, according to his custom after such meditations on the wondrous ways of God, begins a prayer of thanksgiving on behalf of the “Ephesians”; but he has only begun (ver. 1a) when he is somehow reminded of his chains and what has made him a prisoner for Christ, and this causes him to digress (ver. 1b-13) to consider the part he has played in the realization of God’s eternal purpose to unite all the nations of the world in the one spiritual fold of Christ, and to unfold again the unsearchable wisdom of God hidden in the purpose of that divine mystery and age-old secret. For a parallel parenthesis see Rom 5:13-18.

Eph 3:1. For this cause, I Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles;

For this cause, a phrase repeated again in Eph 3:14, where Paul resumes his prayer; it refers back to what he has been saying in Eph 2:11-22.

I Paul is a characteristic way of introducing himself when he is about to treat matters of grave importance or defend his authority (cf. 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:2; Col. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:18; Phlm. 9, 19). St. Chrysostom would insert “am” here after Paul, so as to read: “I Paul am the prisoner, etc.” But if this were the meaning, the article before “prisoner” in Greek should be omitted. Hence, it is better with Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and all modern interpreters to recognize the break in the sentence here and its resumption at Eph 3:14.

The prisoner, etc., i.e., a prisoner according to the will of his Master, and for the cause of his Master (Phlm. 1, 9; 2 Tim. 1:8).

For you Gentiles, i.e., on behalf of you Gentiles, for preaching to you the Messianic salvation and admitting you on a level with the Jews in the Church of Christ (cf. Acts 21:21 ff.).

Eph 3:2. If at least you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you

If at least you have heard. Abbott and many others hold that these words prove that St. Paul was addressing readers personally unknown to him. Westcott thinks there is nothing in the words to sustain such a conclusion. Moule believes we have here “a phrase of almost irony, an illusion to well- known fact under the disguise of hypothesis.” Alexander says the words are expressive of gentle assurance. As a compromise, Robinson holds they mean that some, at least, of the readers were personally unknown to the Apostle. Hitchcock explains that St. Paul first had the intention of writing to the Ephesians, as he had written to the Colossians, but that his outlook changed as he wrote, embracing the Churches of the Lycus Valley and other Gentiles. Voste would translate: “Since indeed you have heard, etc.” If we explain the words as conditional, as in Eph 4:21, we still may hold that they are rhetorical,
not implying any real doubt. A few number of ancient manuscripts and some church fathers witness to the fact that this letter may not have been addressed specifically to the Ephesians since the manuscripts in question had no addressee. Some scholars believe that “Ephesians” was actually written as a circular letter, intended to be delivered and read to a number of different churches and, therefore, originally lacked a specific addressee. Some phrasing in the letter (such as the current verse and 1:15) can be taken as indicating that St Paul was not directly acquainted with the people he is writing to, but Paul was intimately acquainted with the Ephesians.

The dispensation of the grace, etc., better, “the stewardship of the grace, etc.” The Messianic Kingdom is a reign of grace, and St. Paul was designated by Christ to be His steward in dispensing the Messianic grace to the Gentiles. Cf. 1 Cor 9:17; Col 1:24-25.

Eph 3:3. How that, according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me, as I have written above in a few words;

The Apostle now begins to explain how the mystery of grace was made known to him, that is, his apostleship among the Gentiles, as he has explained above in Eph 2:11 ff.

How. The Vulg. quoniam should be quomodo, used to indicate the object of St. Paul’s ministry, namely, that the Gentiles were to be fellow-heirs, etc. (ver. 6).

According to revelation, made to Paul directly on the road to Damascus at the time of hisv conversion, and elsewhere later on (Acts 9:4 ff.; Gal 1:12, 2:2; 2 Cor 12:1, 7, etc).

The mystery, i.e., the purpose of God to save Gentiles as well as Jews through Christ (ver. 5, 6).

As I have written, etc., in this letter (Eph 1:4-14, 2:4-9, 11-22).

Eph 3:4. Whereby, as you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,

Whereby, as you read, etc. The meaning is that, as they read what he has already written in the first two Chapters of this letter, they will perceive his deep insight into God’s world-purpose as revealed in the Incarnation of His Son, namely, the salvation of the world by means of the cross and the incorporation of the Gentiles with the Chosen People.

5. Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit

Which eternal purpose and deep mystery was never before known to mankind as it is now revealed in the Gospel by means of a special revelation communicated to chosen Apostles and prophets whom the Holy Ghost has inspired and set apart in order that they may make it known to the world.

Was not known, at all to the pagan world, and was only dimly shadowed forth among the Chosen People, the most of whom did not understand it.

Sons of men is a Hebraism meaning all men.

Holy apostles, etc., i.e., men especially selected and consecrated for their supernatural work, but not necessarily sanctified personally. That there is question here only of New Testament prophets is clear from the phrase “now revealed.”

In the Spirit, i.e., in the Holy Ghost, by whom the human mediums were inspired.

6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and co-partners of the promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel

St. Paul now gives a brief definition of the content of the longhidden mystery in so far as it pertained to the Gentiles, namely, that God has made the Gentiles equal to the Jews as regards salvation; they are now “fellow-heirs” with the Jews to heaven, members of the same mystical body, the Church, sharers in the same high destiny “in Christ” (i.e., in vital union with Him), which was long ago promised to Abraham and his offspring (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:8, 4:29; Rom 4:13, 16), and is now made manifest in the preaching of the Gospel.

His promise of the Douai should be “the promise,” according to the best Greek and Latin texts.

Eph 3:7. Of which I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given to me, according to the operation of his power.

The Apostle begins now to speak of the mission that has been entrusted to him, the dispensation spoken of above in Eph 3:2. He has been made a “minister” of the Gospel, not by his own choice or because of his merits, but by a gratuitous gift of divine grace, which made an Apostle out of a persecutor and gave him invincible strength to pursue his vocation. The grace here referred to was a gratia gratis data, a divine gift to be used for the benefit of others.

According to . . . according to. Note the parallelism: divine grace made him a minister of the Gospel, and divine grace sustains him in his work for the Gospel; his vocation was a divine gift, and his labors were the result of a divine operation, of God-given working power. Cf. Col. 1:29; Gal. 2:8.

Eph 3:8. To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Here and in the following verse St. Paul will speak of the purpose of his preaching.

To me. The thought of the greatness of the mission confided to him by the grace of God reminds the humble Apostle of his personal unworthiness and insignificance.

The least in the Greek is a word probably coined by the Apostle himself, which literally means “leaster,” or “more least.”

Of all the saints, i.e., of all the Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8-9).

St. Paul never forgets his past life as a persecutor, and the more he realizes the greatness of the grace of God bestowed on him, the more clearly his own unworthiness appears.

To preach, etc. Behold the grace and the mission vouchsafed to Paul, to announce to the Gentile world the infinite treasures of divine truth, love and power, which God has provided for mankind through Jesus Christ.

Unsearchable, literally, “untrackable by footprints,” untraceable, a word found only here and in Rom. 11:33 in all the New Testament; it means incomprehensible. So vast are the treasures of grace hidden in the Gospel and confided to the Church that they utterly transcend our powers of understanding.

Eph 3:9. And to enlighten all men that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things:

To enlighten, etc. Such was the further effect of Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, to make known to all men the divine plan, hidden from eternity, of saving the whole world by means of the human life, labors, sufferings, death, and glorious resurrection of the eternal Son of God made man.

All men. The Greek word is omitted by some ancient MSS. and good authorities, but the weight of authority favors its retention.

Hidden from eternity, etc. Not until the coming of Christ, the Messiah, was the divine economy relative to the salvation of men actually and completely made known; till then it was known in its fullness only to the Godhead.

Who created all things. The Apostle adds this to remind his readers that He who was able to create all things through the Son in the beginning is now able to redeem all through the Son. Some lesser authorities add, “by means of Jesus Christ,” which may be rejected as a gloss, Cf. Col. 1:25-27 for a parallel passage to verses 8 and 9 here.

Eph 3:10. That now the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church,

As it was the purpose of the preaching of Paul to make known to the nations the revelation of the mystery hidden in God from eternity (ver. 8-9), so in turn was it the purpose of that revelation to make known to the world the unsearchable riches of the Messiah and His stewardship, hidden from the beginning in the Creator (ver. 10-11), that is, “that now” (in contrast to the ages that preceded the coming of the Christ) “the manifold wisdom of God, etc.” (i.e., the many-sided and infinitely varied wisdom of God in providing for the salvation of man through the Incarnation of the Son of God) might be made known through the Church to the world of angelic intelligences, including both the good and the evil angels.

Now (Vulg. nunc), omitted in the Douai, is expressed in the Greek.

Manifold. Literally, “much variegated.” The word is found here only in the New Testament.

Principalities and powers, i.e., good and bad angels, according to St. Chrysostom and the evidence of Eph 6:12 below (cf. also Eph 1:21 above).

In the heavenly places. See on Eph 1:3. Through the church, in which the divided human family has been united, and which contains and dispenses the treasures of grace, thus continuing the work of the Redeemer till the end of time in the sight of men and angels. “It is by no means repugnant that through the work of Christ, which the Church continues and carries out to the end of the present world, the infinite riches of the wisdom and mercy of the Redeemer should be successively manifested to the angels themselves” (St. Thomas, h. 1.).

Eph 3:11. According to the eternal purpose, which he made in Christ Jesus, our Lord:

According to the eternal purpose, etc., literally, “according to the purpose of the ages, etc.” The manifold wisdom of God was hidden in the eternal purpose; and that purpose, running through the whole course of the ages, has now been “made” (i.e., realized) in “Christ Jesus, our Lord,” sacrificed, risen, and enthroned forever as the center and Sovereign of the universe; and with the realization of the purpose the multifarious wisdom of God has been made known in part already, and is continually being unfolded to men and angels down to the end of the world. It is disputed whether the words, “which he made,” refer to the decree which God made from eternity regarding future ages, etc., or to the execution of that decree in time; but the context seems to favor the latter explanation.

Eph 3:12. In whom we have boldness, and access with confidence by the faith of him.

St. Paul has just discussed the purpose of God’s revelation made known through the preaching of that revelation, which was to disclose to heavenly intelligences the manifold wisdom of God, as realized in Christ. Now, in verses 12-13, he will treat of the consequences of that same revelation. The first of these consequences is that in Christ, that is, by reason of our mystical union with Him, “we have boldness, etc.,” i.e., we now enjoy freedom of speech and
communication with the Father, “and access” (i.e., introduction) to Him, not in fear, but in confidence (Rom. 8:38 ff.), and this through the faith we have in Christ.

The faith of him means the faith we have “in Him,” as we know from similar constructions in Mark 11:22; Gal. 2:16, 3:22; Rom. 3:22, 26; Phil. 3:9.

Eph 3:13. Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Another consequence of the revelation preached by Paul is the sufferings it brought upon him; but here he prays that his readers may not grow remiss and faint-hearted as a result of the afflictions he has to endure for preaching the Gospel to them; for his sufferings are their glory, inasmuch as they are an evidence of God’s love for them, since God was willing to permit His Apostle to endure so much for their sakes: the privileges they enjoy and the afflictions Paul has undergone that they might have those privileges indicate how dear they are to God.

Wherefore, i.e., in view of your dignity and privileges, resulting from God’s eternal decree realized in Christ.

I pray. This is more probably to be understood of a real prayer to God for the Apostle’s readers, as we gather from the similar use of the verb in Eph. 3:20 and Col. 1:9.

Not to faint should not be interpreted as applying to the Apostle himself, who gloried in his tribulations and declared that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ (Rom. 5:3, 8:38-39; 2 Cor. 12:10; Col. 1:24), but to his readers, to whose glory it was that he had to suffer, and who therefore should not be discouraged.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 2:11-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 16, 2017

THE GENTILES, TOGETHER WITH THE JEWS, ARE CALLED TO SHARE IN THE BLESSINGS OF CHRIST IN THE ONE CHURCH

A summary of  Eph 2:11-22~St. Paul’s pagan converts will better understand the exalted life to which they have been elevated in the Church of Christ, if they first recall their former miserable condition as Gentiles, then reflect on the benefits they now enjoy, and finally compare their present with their former state.

Eph 2:11. For which cause be mindful that you, being heretofore Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands:

For which cause (i.e., since you have been redeemed without any merit on your part) be mindful, etc. (i.e., remember your former deplorable condition when you were “Gentiles in the flesh,” that is, without even any external sign, like circumcision, of belonging to God), when you were contemptuously called the “uncircumcision” by those who were “called circumcision in the flesh”—that is, by the Jews, who bore on their bodies the external mark of belonging to the commonwealth of God, but in many of whom this physical mark was merely hand-made, and so without spiritual value, since it is the circumcision of the heart alone that counts in the sight of God (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11).

Eph 2:12. That you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the conversation of Israel, and strangers to the covenants, having no hope in the promise, and without God in this world.

The Apostle continues the thought broken off after the phrase, “be mindful that you” (verse 11). The Gentiles before their conversion to Christianity were “without Christ” (i.e., apart from Christ), inasmuch as they had not the Scriptures and prophecies which contained the Messianic promises of a coming Redeemer; they were “aliens, etc.,” as being excluded from the theocratic kingdom and from the family of God’s chosen people; they were “strangers to the covenants” (i.e., to the promises of a Messiah made by God to Abraham and renewed to Isaac, Jacob, David, etc.); they were without “hope in the promise” of a Redeemer to come, and hence their best writers and philosophers all expressed the prevalent thoughts and sentiments of sadness and despair, the deep unhappiness at their existing state and the hopeless darkness of the future outlook, holding that the best thing that could happen to man was never to be born, and the next best thing was to die (cf. Mommsen, Hist, of Rome, Eng. trans., vol. IV, p. 586); they were “without God in this world” (i.e., without a correct knowledge of the true God in a dark and sinful world), having obscured by their sins the natural light of reason, and being devoid of the positive divine revelation which the Jews possessed.

Eph 2:13. But now in Christ Jesus, you, who some time were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

The Apostle has just briefly reviewed the sad state of the Gentiles before their conversion to Christianity (ver. 11-12). Now he will speak of their new and glorious condition as Christians, and of the peace they enjoy in the Messianic Kingdom (ver. 13-18).  Formerly they were without Christ, but now they are “in Christ” (i.e., living intimately united to the promised Messiah and in union with “Jesus,” the Saviour of mankind). In their previous condition as pagans, they “were afar off” from the kingdom of God, being outside the citizenship of Israel and the covenants of promise; but now they “are made nigh, etc.” (i.e., they have been incorporated in Christ by membership in His Church, through the merits of the passion and death of Jesus). It was Christ’s blood offered in sacrifice for them, as for the whole world, that merited for these Gentile converts their redemption and the consequent peace they now enjoy in the Church of Christ: “This is my blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins” (Matt 26:28; Heb 9:12 ff.). The Apostle will now show how this has been done by the pacifying work of Christ.

Eph 2:14. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmity in his flesh:

For he is our peace. Isaias (9:6) foretold that the Messiah should be the Prince of peace. And Christ is said to be our peace, first because, through the abrogation of the Mosaic Law with its statutes and precepts, He has destroyed the barrier that made enmity between Jew and Gentile (ver. 14-15); and secondly because He has reconciled men with God by forgiving their sins (ver. 16). Thus, He “hath made both one” (i.e., He has made the Jewish and the Gentile sections of the human race one community), not by making Gentiles Jews, but by elevating both to the supernatural order and producing, as it were, a new race called Christians. The “middle wall of partition” refers to the Mosaic Law which kept the Jews separated from the Gentiles and was the cause of the enmity that existed between them. The figure here was likely suggested by the stone wall which separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Temple Court of the Israelites. Any Gentile who dared to trespass beyond this wall incurred the penalty of death.

Enmity. This word is more probably to be taken in apposition to “middle wall of partition,” and it signifies the reality of which that wall was a figure. This enmity and its cause Christ has been broken down and removed “in his flesh” (i.e., by means of His passion and death).

Eph 2:15. Making void the law of commandments contained in decrees; that he might make the two in himself into one new man, making peace;

Some expositors connect “in his flesh” of the preceding verse with what follows here; but this does not affect the sense, since it was by His passion and death that Christ both removed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and abrogated the Law with its statutes and precepts.

Making void, etc., by abrogating the Mosaic Law which contained numerous commands and ceremonies regarding foods, feasts, etc.„ all of which were calculated to isolate Israel from the rest of the world, and were figures or types of realities to come. With the advent, therefore, of Christ and the Gospel these ancient precepts and ceremonies were abrogated, as the shadow vanishes with the appearance of the light (cf. Col 2:14-20). It must be understood, of course, that the moral precepts of the Mosaic Law did not cease; they were rather perfected and confirmed (Matt 5:17; cf. Rom 3:31; 1 Cor 3:14).

That he might make, etc. (better, “in order to create, etc.”). The purpose was not merely to unite Jew and Gentile, but from the two to create a new human type that should be neither Jew nor Gentile, but Christian. The Apostle uses the masculine plural here (τους δυο), because there is now question of two men, Jew and Gentile, and not of two systems, Judaism and heathendom, as in ver. 14 where the Greek neuter is used. The justification or sanctification of a soul is as much a generation in the supernatural order as the production of the soul and the human organism is in the natural order (cf. 2 Cor 5:17).

In himself. Christ has united Jew and Gentile into one mystical body of which He is the head and life-giving source, thus “making peace” between them.

Eph 2:16. And might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, killing the enmity in himself.

A further purpose of the propitiatory death of Christ was to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God by means of the sacrifice of the cross, having destroyed by His own suffering the enmity that existed between them, and having united them both into one new man “in one body,” which is His Church.

In one body. By this phrase some understand the physical body of Christ affixed to the cross ; but others with greater probability take the phrase to refer to the mystical body of Christ, the Church.

In himself should more likely be “in it,” the reference being to the cross (εν εαυτω), rather than to Christ. The Greek, however, can refer to either Christ or the cross (cf. Col 1:19-22).

Eph 2:17. And coming, he preached peace to you that were afar off, and peace to them that were nigh.

And when the Saviour came into this world, He preached first in person to the Jews, and then through His Apostles to the Gentiles, the Gospel of peace among all men and reconciliation to God. The Gentiles were said to be “afar off,” because they were without the Law and the special revelation which the Jews possessed, and in consequence of which the latter were said to be “nigh.” The perfect peace which Christ brought to the world, and of which He spoke at the Last Supper (John 14:27, 16:33), rests on perfect justice; and hence, as St. Thomas says, it is impossible to have peace without justice. This peace of Christ which we enjoy is the fruit of our reconciliation with God, and the cause of it the Apostle will now explain in the following verse.

Eph 2:18. For by him we have access both in one Spirit to the Father.

Christ is our peace, and He has given us peace because through Him we, Jews and Gentiles, have been freed from our sins, animated by the Holy Ghost, reconciled to God, and thus introduced to the Father. Note the mention here of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. It is more probable that the word “access” here should be given an active transitive sense, and so should be translated “introduction,” because we have not ourselves come into the
presence of the Father, but Christ has introduced us; “we do not come in our own strength, but need an introduction—Christ” (Sanday, on Romans v. 1-2).

Robinson and some others understand “one Spirit” here to refer to oneness of mind and heart among the Christians; but as the unity of the body results from the unity of the head, so the unity and concord of the faithful come from the unity of the Spirit by which they are animated. Thus, this second explanation is included in the first, and presupposes it.

Eph 2:19. Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints ; and the domestics of God,

In verses 19-22 St. Paul will show the difference between the present and the former state of the Gentiles and their existing perfect equality with the Jews. He will illustrate this equality of Gentiles with Jews in the Christian commonwealth by several different metaphors—by a city or state, in which they enjoy the rights of naturalized citizens; by a household, in which they are members of God’s family; by a building, of which they and the Jews are the living stones and Christ the chief cornerstone.

Now therefore. The Apostle is going to draw a conclusion from what he has just been saying in the preceding verses.

You are no more strangers, to the covenants of the promise (ver. 12), and foreigners, i.e., aliens, without the rights of citizenship in the spiritual commonwealth of God; but you are fellow citizens, etc., i.e., full members of the mystical body of Christ and of the household of God, together with those of Jewish origin; you are all now inmates of the Father’s house in Christ.

Eph 2:20. Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:

Built, etc., or better, “having been built upon the apostles and prophets” of the New Testament as a moral foundation, with “Jesus Christ himself” as the chief cornerstone of that foundation, who thus gives coherence and fixity to it and to the whole superstructure erected upon it. Having spoken at the end of ver. 19 of the inmates of the household of God, the Apostle in this verse passes to the building itself. The past tense of the verb here shows that the Gentiles became fellow-citizens in the New Jerusalem and members of God’s family at the time of their conversion (Hitchcock, op. cit., h. I.). It is more probable that the “foundation” here refers to the apostles and prophets themselves, than to the doctrine they preached (1 Cor 3:10), since they are paralleled by “Jesus Christ” which follows. Nor is it likely that we should take Christ as the foundation here, as in 1 Cor 3:11, since just below He is said to be the “chief cornerstone.” We are likewise to understand “apostles and prophets” to refer to the New Testament teachers and ministers of the Word (Acts 11:28, 15:32; 1 Cor 14), rather than to the Prophets of the Old Testament, as we judge from the order of the words here, from the fact that both nouns are preceded by only one article in Greek, from the parallel passages in Eph 3:5 and 4:11, where the reference is certainly to New Testament prophets, etc. On the other hand, it is true that the Old Testament Prophets are frequently regarded in the New Testament as Evangelists before the time (Luke 24:25; Acts 3:18, 21, 24, 10:43; Rom 16:26).

Eph 2:21. In whom the whole building, being fitly framed together, groweth up into a holy sanctuary in the Lord.

In whom (i.e., in which cornerstone, namely, Christ) the whole building (i.e., every part of the Church, becoming more intensely and solidly united, part with part and all the parts with the foundation and head) groweth—i.e., becomes ever more and more extended, as living stones are prepared and laid on living stones (1 pET 2:5), rising to completion and perfection-into a holy sanctuary, worthy of the divine presence that dwells therein (cf. Apoc 21:22), in the Lord (i.e., in Christ, who is the living bond of unity, coherence, growth, and sanctity of the entire Church). We have given what we consider the best and most probable rendering of the passage, “the whole building, being fitly framed together,” the Greek of which is difficult and is variously translated.

“Sanctuary” (Gr., ναον= NAOS), the more sacred part of the Temple, where the divine presence is especially manifested, as distinguished from the courts and outer area (ἱερόν = HIERON).

Eph 2:22. In whom you also are built together into a habitation of God in the Spirit.

In whom. The reference is again to Christ, the cornerstone.

You also, i.e., you Gentile readers of this Epistle.

Are built. Better, “are being builded” together with the rest of the Christians. The present tense is used in Greek, showing that the process is going on but is not yet complete; the Church is becoming more extended without and more united within as it gradually approaches its perfection and its goal as a permanent habitation for the Divine Presence in its glorified state hereafter.

Into a habitation is parallel to “into a holy sanctuary” above, and the thought is that of a building that is being perfected as an abiding dwelling place for God in the world to come, where “God shall be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

In the Spirit, i.e., in the Holy Ghost, “who sanctifieth the elect of God.” “In the Spirit” is parallel to “in the Lord” of the preceding verse, and hence it is to be interpreted of the Spirit of God. The Church is built on the Son, by the Holy Ghost, for the Father; and the description here given of it by St. Paul, from the revelation he had received, began with a reference to the Messianic Kingdom of the Old Dispensation (ver. 11-12), then proceeded to a reflection on the peace now enjoyed in the Messianic Kingdom of the New Dispensation (ver. 13-18), and finally terminates (ver. 19-22) with a vision of the Messianic Kingdom of the New Jerusalem, where a manifestation of the glory to come (Rom 8:18), supreme and unimaginable, awaits all those who by perseverance in faith and good works are destined to be heirs of the riches of God in heaven.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 2:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 16, 2017

THE POWER OF GOD IS MANIFESTED IN THE NEW LIFE GIVEN TO CHRISTIANS

A Summary of Ephesians 2:1-10~The Gentiles were formerly dead in their sins, and the Jews, following after the lusts of the flesh, were no better; but God in His mercy through Christ has raised up both the one and the other, and made them heirs to heavenly thrones, in order that He might manifest to the coming ages His infinite goodness. All this has been gratuitous on His part, for we are saved by grace, and not by our own natural works. Thus, we are new creatures in Christ, that henceforth we may live lives worthy of our high calling.

Eph 2:1. And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins,

And you. The connection with what precedes is clear; the thought goes back to Eph 1:20, and is as follows: As God gave new life to Christ Jesus, raising Him from the dead, so has He also given new life to you, raising you from the death of sin to a life of grace. The phrases are suspended here, having their subject (“God”) in verse 4 and their verb (“quickened”) in verse 5, This suspended construction is characteristic of St, Paul’s nervous and vehement style.

When you were dead, etc., i.e., spiritually dead, bereft of the principle of supernatural Ufe, which is the Holy Ghost dwelling by grace in the soul.

Eph 2:2. Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief:

Wherein, etc., i.e., in which state of moral death you lived and wrought in your pagan past.

According to the course of this world, i.e., according to the evil principles and customs of this present order of things, which is under the sway and influence of Satan, who is “the prince of the power of the air” (i.e., who is the ruler of the authority of the air, or the evil ruler whose sphere of authority is the air, and who exercises his nefarious influence “on the children, etc.,” on those who refuse to believe, or who reject the Gospel). Among the Jews the air was popularly regarded as the abode of evil spirits, as heaven was God’s abode and the earth the place of man’s sojourn. Moreover, Satan’s legitimate sphere of activity is no longer in heaven (Rev 12:9; Luke 10:18); nor is it on the earth, which has been reclaimed by the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Hence, the Apostle speaks of it figuratively as being between heaven and earth—in the air.

Power is more probably to be taken in an abstract sense for domination, and “spirit,” a genitive in Greek, is governed by “prince,” and means the mind or tendency by which the evil spirit, Satan, is actuated.

Children of unbelief, or better, “sons of disobedience,” is a Hebraism to signify all those who do not accept the Gospel.

Eph 2:3. In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:

In which. This can refer to the “sins” and “offences” of verse 1, or to the “children of unbelief” of verse 2. If taken in the latter connection, we should render “among whom,”

Also we all, i.e., the Jews, as well as the Gentiles.

Conversed, etc., i.e., lived and acted before they embraced Christianity. St. Paul is referring to the general unfaithfulness of the Jews, in spite of their many privileges and graces (Rom. 3:9); he is not, of course, including faithful individual souls like the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, the Prophets, etc. But the Jews as a class, he says, like the Gentiles, lived according to the evil inclinations of their lower nature and the perverse counsels of the mind of the natural man, disregarding the will of God and the dictates of an enlightened conscience. As a result, they were “by nature children of wrath,” i.e., by reason of the corrupt nature they had inherited from Adam, which inclined them to the actual sins of which they were personally guilty, they had become objects of God’s great displeasure, “even as the rest” (i.e., like the pagans). We are said to incur God’s wrath when by willful transgression we put ourselves in opposition to His will; the change is not in the unchangeable God, but in us.

It is disputed whether “nature” here is to be understood of original sin, or of actual sins of which the Apostle has just been speaking, or of both taken into the one account. St. Augustine took the phrase to mean original sin, and this is the common opinion. But Dr. Voste thinks there is question here only of actual sins, since the Apostle is speaking of sins in which the Gentiles “walked,” and in which the Jews “conversed” in times past—therefore, of sins which both the Gentiles and the Jews had themselves committed. The Jews and the Gentiles are both put in the same class here as regards their sins, but that could not be with regard to original sin, since the former, unlike the latter, were purified from it by circumcision before their conversion to Christianity. Of course, the innate proneness to evil in both classes and in all men is best explained by the doctrine of original sin.

Eph 2:4. But God (who is rich in mercy), for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,
Eph 2:5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ (by whose grace you are saved),
Eph 2:6. And hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus:

The Apostle now goes on to say that, when both Jews and Gentiles were spiritually dead because of their sins, God, moved by His great love for them, “quickened” them (i.e., brought them back to life), and “raised” them up from the grave of death, and “made” them “sit together in the heavenly places” with the glorified Christ (Eph 1:3). All this has been done by grace, without any merit on their part; and of course what is here said of Jews and Gentiles is also true of all men of all time who are regenerated in Christ.

The compound verbs which appear here in the Latin and Greek of verses 5 and 6, and which can be respectively rendered in English by co-vivified, co-raised, and co-seated, show the intimate union that exists between Christ and the members of His Church, who constitute His mystical body. We are with Christ as His companions, and in Him as members of His mystical body, the Church. St. Paul is speaking of our spiritual restoration and our sanctification by which we are already admitted to a participation in the divine nature and to a foretaste of life eternal; hence the use of the aorist, or definitely past tense. Our glorification is already a fact in germ.

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.

Here we have indicated the purpose of our present transformation by grace into the likeness of Christ, which is that in the life to come beyond the grave the Eternal Father might show to the angels and to the elect in heaven, where only so great a benefit can be perfectly understood, the infinite treasures of grace which of His own goodness He has bestowed on the saved through Jesus Christ, and by reason of their union with Christ. The Apostle neyer tires of repeating that all the graces and benefits we receive are given and shall be given us “in Christ Jesus,” and this is why the Church always prays through Christ.

The phrase “in the ages to come” is understood by some interpreters to refer to the period during which the preaching of the Gospel will go on in the present world, by others to all future periods of development in God’s kingdom ; but it is better to take it as alluding to heaven, where the goodness of God towards us will be perfectly manifested and perfectly understood. We must not think of “the world to come as a monotonous stretch of time. As the life of God is pure activity without any element of inertia or passivity, the life of those who will share in the Divine Nature will be active. To us, wearied with labour, and burdened with care, heaven naturally becomes a symbol of rest. But labour implies a strength unequal to perfect mastery of the work; and the good, opposed to it, is not rest or inactivity, but the play of an artist or a child. So we may picture the life of God as one of play. And the life of the Church in heaven may be imaged as that of God’s kindergarten, the knowledge of Him ever growing deeper, the vision of Him ever growing fuller, and His glory ever growing brighter. We cannot describe that life; but such an expression as ‘the ages’ implies a history of period after period, in which God will more and more exhibit the overflowing wealth of His grace by kindness to those in union with His Incarnate Son” (Hitchcock, The Epistle to the Ephesians, hoc loco).

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

In verse 5 St. Paul said we are saved hy grace, and now he goes back to that thought and proves his assertion. Our justification and our salvation are the result of grace, with faith as a necessary condition (cf. Rom. 3:22 ff.); and neither the faith that precedes nor the justification or salvation that follows can be said to be due in any way to our natural works, for the simple reason that there is no proportion between these supernatural gifts and our natural works; they belong to diflFerent orders.

For. This word shows the connection with the preceding verse, where it is said that God’s favors to us are the consequence of His bounty towards us.

You are saved. The Apostle now addresses his Gentile readers, and hence changes to the second person.

Through faith, i.e., by means of faith, as a necessary condition of their salvation.

And that. The pronoun “that” here is neuter in Greek, and it is uncertain to what it may refer. St. Chrysostom, St. Jerome and others referred it to “faith”; but faith is a feminine noun. It seems better, therefore, to make the reference be to the whole preceding sentence, which declares in a positive manner that our salvation is entirely the work of God’s grace. To this general positive teaching the Apostle then adds in a negative way that this salvation is not of ourselves, “for it is the gift of God.” That faith alone is a pure gift of God is also certain (cf. 2 Cor. 4:13; Phil. 1:29), though that is not the main point here. St. Paul is accustomed to use the pronoun “that” (τουτο) in reference to the preceding sentence, and not to the preceding word (as in 1 Cor. 6:8; Phil. 1:28); hence we understand it here as referring to our deliverance by grace through faith.

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

The conclusion of the preceding verse is further reinforced in a negative way by saying here that our salvation is not the result of “works” (i.e., of any natural works), whether of the Law (Rom. 3:28) or otherwise; so that all the glory of our salvation may be referred to God, and not to any man, “that no man may glory” (i.e., boast that his salvation is due to himself). If anyone will glory in this matter, let him glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17; Gal. 6:14). And the reason for this is immediately given.

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

For we are his workmanship, etc., i.e., we as Christians are His making, for He has “created” us, as it were, anew “in Christ Jesus” (i.e., as members of Christ’s mystical body in the supernatural order) “unto good works” (i.e., with a view to good works, as an inseparable condition of our new creation in grace); which good works God from eternity has decreed and prepared for us, not to the exclusion of our free will, but presupposing the right use of free will, for he adds “that we should walk in them” (i.e., God has so prepared those good works for us that we should freely do them in time).

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