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 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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