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 Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018

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.

Eph 1:1. 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.

Eph 1:2. 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.

Eph 1:3. 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.

Eph 1:4. 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.

Eph 1:5. 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.” = By now it must be clear how divine predestination neither has nor can have any cause but the will of God alone. This, in turn, reveals how the only motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate the divine goodness to others.

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).

Eph 1:6. 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.

Eph 1:7. 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).

Eph 1:8. 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.

Eph 1:9. 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).

Eph 1:10. 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.

Eph 1:11. In whom we also were called by lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will;

In whom we also, etc. The et nos of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek, and hence the we here is not emphatic; the Apostle is stressing not the persons that were called, but the fact of their call to the Gospel, both Jews and Gentiles.

By lot. The meaning of the Greek here is to obtain an inheritance, a portion, that is, to be made a part of God’s inheritance, portion, lot. The Greek verb used here to express this allotment is found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, but its meaning is clear from the noun κλῆρος, lot (cf. also Deut 32:9). The Church is the New Israel of God (Gal 6:16). The call to Christianity is gratuitous, altogether independent of our merits, and infallible; it is in no way fortuitous or due to chance. For we were “predestinated” to this admission into the New Israel of God “according to the purpose, etc.,” that is, according to the free and independent choice of the will of God. The Greek verb here used, worketh, (ενεργουντος), signifies the infallible efficacy of the divine action in moving all things to their respective operations and ends.

The counsel, etc. In Greek βουλην includes the deliberation of the reason, whereas θέλημα (will) means native, active inclination. God’s will is eminently free, but by no means arbitrary; it acts according to “counsel.”

Eph 1:12. That we may be unto the praise of his glory, we who before hoped in Christ:

That we might be, etc. The final reason why God chose, predestined, and called us is His own glory. The final reason for every action of God must be Himself, because, as being all-perfect, He can act only for the highest and most perfect end, and this obviously is Himself.

We who before, etc., i.e., we Jews. It is more probable that the Apostle is speaking in this verse, not of Christians in general who are living in the hope of Christ to come at the end of the world, but of the Jews to whom the Messianic promises were given. To the Jews, living in hope of the Messiah to come, was given the prerogative of being first admitted into the New Israel of God, the Church. We hold, then, that the reference in this verse is to Jewish believers as against Gentile believers. The former, as having inherited and cherished the hope of the Messiah to come before the Gentiles were aware of this blessing, have a sort of prior claim with respect to the Gospel.

Eph 1:13. In whom you also, after you had heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation); in whom also believing, you were signed with the holy Spirit of promise,

In whom you also, etc. Having spoken in the previous verse of the Jewish Christians, the Apostle now turns to the Gentile converts, who also have been called to share in the blessings of the Gospel. Most probably the verb “were called” (as in ver. 11) should be supplied to complete the first line of this present verse, thus: “In whom you also were called, etc.” Also the Gentiles have been called through Christ, they have had preached to them “the word of truth” (i.e., the Gospel), the purpose of which is their salvation; they have also believed in Christ and in the Gospel, and in consequence they have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit promised by the Prophets and by Jesus as the seal and pledge of their divine filiation. This sign or seal is impressed on the soul in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. These two Sacraments, of Baptism and Confirmation, were usually conferred together in the early Church (cf. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4 ff., Acts 2:16 ff.; John 1:32, John 6:27, etc.). Some authors take the second in quo (in whom) of this verse to refer to the Gospel rather than to Christ, but this does not change the meaning.

Eph 1:14. Who is the pledge of our inheritance, unto the redemption of acquisition, unto the praise of his glory.

Who is the pledge, etc. The Holy Ghost now given to Christians is the earnest, or first installment, or part-payment of the final and complete blessedness which will be theirs hereafter. The Greek word αρραβων, here translated pledge, is Semitic in origin and first meant something given as a guarantee of an agreement between two parties, but which was to be surrendered upon the fulfillment of the agreement. But by usage the word took on the meaning of an earnest, or a certain part of the whole that is to be paid in due time. This is the meaning of the word here.

Unto the redemption, etc., i.e., the Holy Ghost is now given the Christians as the first installment of their full and final emancipation as God’s people and possession, acquired by the blood of Christ. The saints are the property or possession of God, and they have already received a part or foretaste of their future inheritance; the Holy Ghost has been given “them as part-payment until the redemption is complete, that is, until our “acquisition,” or future possession, has been fully redeemed. “Charitas viae, quam hic habemus per infusum Spiritum Sanctum, eadem numero est ac charitas patriae, qua beati (misericordia Dei) possidebimus Deum in coelo” (St. Thomas, la IIæ, Q. 67, art. 6).

AN ACT OF THANKSGIVING AND A PRAYER THAT THE SAINTS MAY
UNDERSTAND THE BLESSINGS THEY ENJOY IN CHRIST

A Summary of Ephesians 1:15-19~Having considered the benefits which God from eternity has bestowed on the “Ephesians,” and also the privilege of their call to the Gospel in time, the Apostle now thanks God for the faith they have already received, and then goes on to pray for a further outpouring of the Spirit upon them, to the end that they may fully realize the divine prospects which are theirs, which God has in store for them, and which will be given them according to the measure of His omnipotent power displayed in the exaltation of Christ.

Eph 1:15. Wherefore I also, hearing of your faith which is in the Lord Jesus, and of your love towards all the saints,

Wherefore, i.e., because of the many divine benefits which have been described above, namely, our election, predestination, adoption, redemption, etc.

I also, hearing, etc., i.e., Paul, a prisoner in Rome, had heard of the faith among the “Ephesians.” This is taken as an argument that this letter was not addressed to the Christians of Ephesus, among whom Paul had lived so long and whose faith was known to him personally. But others say that the Apostle is here alluding to the increase and progress of their faith since he was with them.

Which is in the Lord Jesus, i.e., which reposes in Him and on Him as a basis and foundation; or, less likely, which is maintained in union with Him.

And your love, etc. The word “love” here is wanting in some good MSS., but it is found in other important ones and in all ancient versions, and is therefore to be retained as a parallel to “faith.” The faith of the saints issues in love toward the brethren who share that faith, that is, in a love of preference, one which favors the Christians, but does not exclude love towards all men (2 Peter 1:7).

Eph 1:16. Cease not to give thanks for you, making commemoration of you in my prayers;

Cease not, etc. This is a frequent phrase with St. Paul, especially at the beginning of his Epistles, and Egyptian papyri show that similar phrases were used in epistolary greetings in pre-Christian times; with St. Paul, however, such words have a spiritual meaning. The Apostle continually thanks God for the spiritual benefits conferred on the saints, and he prays that these blessings may be continued and extended.

Eph 1:17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of him:

In verses 17-19 we have the substance of St. Paul’s prayer. This is the Apostle’s first prayer in this letter; a second prayer occurs below in Eph 3:14-19, and a third in Eph 6:18-20,

That the God, etc. There should be no comma after Deus in the Vulgate here. The meaning of the passage is: The God whom our Lord Jesus Christ knew and manifested to the world (John 20:17; Matt, 27:46; cf. above, ver. 3). The Arians abused this text to prove that our Lord was not divine; and hence some of the Fathers interpreted the words “of our Lord Jesus Christ” as referring to the humanity of Christ.

The Father of glory, i.e., the author and source of all glory, who possesses in Himself the fullness of glory and diffuses it in the world outside the Godhead.

May give unto you the spirit, etc., not the Holy Spirit, but His gifts, especially that of heavenly wisdom which penetrates into the deep mysteries of God and ever reveals a fuller knowledge of the Father, the Divine Being, whom to know, together with the Son whom He has sent, is to know the secrets and the fullness of eternal life (John 17:3; Matt. 11:27).

Eph 1:18. The eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the hope is of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Eph 1:19. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the operation of the might of his power,

The eyes of your heart, etc., i.e., that the Father of glory may give you (v. 17) enlightened eyes, or enlightenment of eyes, so that you may thoroughly understand the following: (a) “what Is the hope of his calling,” i.e., what are the rewards to be hoped for by those whom God has called to Christianity; (b) “what are the riches of the glory, etc.,” i.e., what are the treasures of glory in heaven which God has prepared for Christians who, as children of God, have become heirs of celestial riches; (c) “what is the exceeding greatness of his power, etc.,” i.e., what is the infinite power of God which is able to confer on the saints all that God has promised them as a result of their Christian faith. Thus, the Apostle prays that his readers may grasp the hope of their calling, the object of their calling, and the infinite power by which God is able to fulfill His promises to the saints.

Heart, among the Semites and Hebrews, meant not only the seat of the affections, but of intelligence also.

What, i.e., the essence or quiddity. There Is good MSS. evidence for rejecting the “and” after “calling,” thus making “the hope of his calling” one question with “what are the riches of his glory,” instead of there being two questions involved in those two clauses.

The glory of his inheritance, i.e., the state of glory which Christ, the King of glory, has inherited and prepared in heaven for the saints (John 14:2 ff.).
In the saints. i.e., in the Christians who are saved: “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Of his power, etc., exercised in our sanctification and glorification.

Who believe is in apposition with “us”; the phrase is not to be connected with the words that follow.

According to the operation, etc. These words go back to “the exceeding greatness of his power,” and the meaning Is: “according to the working of the strength of his power.”

Might of his power. This is an intensive phrase used to bring out the power of God working within us; nothing is impossible to that divine power which was able to raise Christ from the dead. God who calls us to the joys of the Infinite has infinite power to make effective that call. See parallel passages in Col. 1:27, and Rom. 9:23.

THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST

A Summary of Ephesians 1:20-23~Speaking of the infinite power of God manifested in the raising of Christ from the dead, the Apostle is, as it were, carried out of himself, and bursts forth into a sublime act of praise of the risen and glorified Saviour, sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, elevated above all angelic powers or dignities, with all things beneath His feet, being made the head of the Church, which is His mystical body. In these verses our Lord’s exaltation and supremacy are proclaimed, first over the universe (Eph 1:21–22a) and then over the Church (ver. Eph 1:22b-23).

Eph 1:20. Which he wrought in Christ, raising him up from the dead, and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places,

Which he wrought. The reference is to the action of the Eternal Father in raising our Lord from the dead.

In Christ, i.e., in the person and instance of Christ.

And setting him. Better: “making him to sit.”

On his right hand, i.e., in the place of honor, sharing as the Incarnate Son the throne of the eternal Father, which as God He had never relinquished.

In the heavenly places, i.e., in a spiritual locality outside and above our world of sense. Our Lord’s glorified body is a real body, and therefore it requires a real place in which to dwell. See above on verse 3.

 

Eph 1:21. Above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.

Above all principality, etc. The Apostle here mentions four orders or classes or choirs of celestial beings above which Christ in heaven is said to be exalted (cf. 1 Peter 3:22, and below, Eph 3:10). In Col. 1:16, we have a parallel passage where St. Paul adds the order of “thrones,” but omits the order of “virtue” here mentioned. In that passage the thought is that Christ in His pre-existent glory and divinity is the Creator of those angelic beings; whereas here His Headship over them is the dominant thought. The division of angels into nine orders and three hierarchies is due to the Pseudo-Dionysius in his book On the Celestial Hierarchy, a notable work which first appeared about 500 a.d., but which from then on exercised a great influence till the close of the Middle Ages.

Every name, etc., is a Hebraism which signifies every creature whatsoever, which can exist “not only in this world” (i.e., in the time that precedes the Second Coming of Christ), “but also in that which is to come” (i.e., the eternal and heavenly duration that will follow the Second Advent): over all creatures, present or to come, Christ rules supreme (cf. Phil. 2:9-1 1 ; Col. 1:13).

Eph 1:22. And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church,

And he hath subjected, etc. An allusion to Ps. 8:8, where man is described as the crown of the visible world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26 ff.; Heb. 2:8 flf).

And hath made him head, etc. The Greek reads : “And gave him to the Church head over all.” The words “over all” show the dignity and excellence of Christ whom the eternal Father has given to the Church as its head. Our Lord made St. Peter the visible head of the Apostolic College and of the Church, but He Himself ever remains the supreme head, not only of the Church Militant, but likewise of the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant.

Eph 1:23. Which is his body, and the fullness of him who is filled all in all.

But Jesus is the head of the Church, not merely because He governs it and has subjected all things to Himself, but also because it is His mystical body. The Church exists by virtue of Christ its head, and we its members live by His life. Hence, to injure unjustly the Church and its members is to injure Christ, as Jesus affirmed to Saul the persecutor: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me, etc.” (Acts 9:4 ff.). St. Paul frequently speaks of the Church as the mystical body of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12 ff.; Eph. 4:12-16, 5:23, 30; Col. 1:18-19, 2:19).

The fullness of him, i.e., the totality or completion of Christ, or that which renders Christ complete. The Greek word πληρωμα (fullness) here is obscure and has received various explanations, the most probable of which we have just given in the preceding sentence. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. From this union of head and body there results one whole, which is the mystical Christ. The Church, therefore, the body of Christ, completes Christ; or, to put it in another way, Christ, the head of the Church, is completed by the Church. In other words, as in the human body the members are the completion or complement of the head, since without them the head could not exercise the different actions, so the Church, which is the body of Christ, is the complement of Christ the head, because without it Christ would not be able to exercise His office of Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls.

Who is filled. Here again the meaning is very obscure. The verb to fill in the Greek of the present passage may be taken in the middle or in the passive voice. If we take it as a middle, the meaning would be that Christ for His own sake fills with all graces and blessings the members of the Church, His mystical body. If the verb be understood as a passive participle, the sense is that Christ, God Incarnate, is incomplete without the Church, as a head is necessarily incomplete without its body; and that, consequently, as the Church grows in holiness and progresses in the fulfillment of its divine mission, Christ, God Incarnate, is progressively completed.

All in all, i.e., all things in all ways. Cf. St. Thomas, hoc loco; Voste, op. cit., hoc loco; Prat, La Theol. de St. Paul, I, pp. 410 ff.

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