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Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 1:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2020

Chapter l In this chapter the Apostle declares the purpose of Almighty God, from all eternity, to call the Ephesian believers, and all other faithful followers of Jesus Christ, to grace and salvation; and prays that they may he enlightened to see the splendour and sublimity of this heavenly calling, and of the hope cf sharing the greatness:and felicity of Jesus Christ, seated in glory at the right hand of God.

Eph 1:1. Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, to all the saints who are at Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus;

Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God. This statement is frequently repeated by St. Paul, as at the beginning of both the Epistles to the Corinthians, that to the Colossians, &c. It implies that a vocation depending on the will of God is required for every minister of Christ, whether called to preach the Gospel or stand at the altar. It may suggest to every priest to consider and reflect upon the motives and circumstances which led him to enter the sacerdotal office, so that if he thinks there existed any defect in his vocation, it may be supplied by penance.

To all the saints. So also in both the Epistles to the Corinthians, and elsewhere. For all Christians are saints, and  called to sanctity, though, it may be, in different degrees. They came forth immaculate from the fount of baptism, and with that beginning a profane and worldly life can hardly be consistent. At least they should aspire in some degree to sanctity.

Eph 1:2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace. St. Paul prays for grace and peace for his brethren, in almost all his Epistles. Grace and peace are what we should continually ask of Christ, for ourselves and others. Grace includes every gift necessary for eternal life ; peace is the firm, unshaken, and tranquil. possession of these spiritual gifts.

Eph 1:3. Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in every spiritual benediction,, in the heavenly places, in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no verb in this sentence, either in the Vulgate or the Greek text. We may understand, either blessed is, or blessed be. It is a theological truth that God is, and ought to be, blessed ; the recognition of this truth is an act of piety in the creature towards the Creator. In this verse the Apostle blesses God. and affirms that God has blessed us. In the first, to bless means to praise, in the second it signifies to do good; but both significations are radically the same, because to praise, and to do good, proceed alike from a good will, and have their origin in charity. We bless God, when we thank him for his benefits, and God blesses us when he bestows those benefits. For God’s blessing confers good, in which it differs from the ineffectual, and sometimes false, benedictions of man.

In every spiritual benediction. The word in is redundant by a Hebrew idiom. With every spiritual benediction. In saying spiritual benediction, the Apostle means to contrast the blessings we receive from God, with those he promised to, and conferred upon, his ancient people, which were not spiritual, but material. He promised’ earthly blessings to the Jews, he has promised the heavenly to Christians. The New Testament is distant from the Old, as heaven from earth. In the ancient Scriptures, as for example in Lev. 26, Deut. 7, or 28, we find only earthly advantages secured or offered to the people of Israel. But, in reading the New Testament, we find no promises of terrestrial good. Blessed are the pour in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Who loveth me, we will come and make our dwelling with him Matt. 5:3, Jn 14:23. The followers of Christ are, on the contrary, warned to expect persecution and affliction. You shall mourn and weep. hi the world you shall have trouble. Jn 16:20, 33. The spirit of the Christian faith is to despise earth, and aspire to heaven, to be withdrawn from what is carnal, the more abundantly to possess that which is spiritual.

In the heavenly, understand regions or places, not literally but in figure, because the nature of the heavenly cannot be fully apprehended by our limited intelligence. God has blessed us in the heavenly places, because there he dwells; or more properly, has blessed us with celestial gifts which are one day to raise us to heaven.

In Christ. That is, through Christ ; or by the faith of Christ; or because the possession of Christ is the promised blessing which awaits us in the heavenly places, whither he has ascended. The preposition in is omitted in the Greek, but probably by mistake of a transcriber, the expression as it stands being: a solecism and ungrammatical. Christ is the means or channel by which every blessing of God reaches us; and by which our praise and benediction ascends in answer to God. Through him, with him, and in him, is all honour and glory given to God omnipotent, not by man only, but by the holy Angels as well.

Eph 1:4. As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and immaculate, in his sight, in charity.

As he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This particularizes and describes the blessing referred to in the last verse. God chose us, before the foundation of the world, in view of the merits of Christ, and for the sake of Christ; and having chosen us in eternity, has blessed us in time. The Greek word καταβολή (kataboles) signifies the laying of a foundation, literally, throwing down. As if, says St. Chrysostom, God had thrown down the universe from an infinite height, not locally, but on account of the immeasurable distance which separates the nature of the Creator from that of the creature.

That we might be holy and blameless in his sight. This is the object of our election, to be holy and blameless, not only in the sight of men, who may be deceived, but in that of God, who sees all things. In charity, because this is the crown and perfection of sanctification, and the means of attaining it. The Apostle does not assert that sanctification is the final end of our election, but it is the final end as regards this life. Or it may be considered as identical with the final beatification of soul and body in the presence of God, for which it is, in any point of view, essential. But St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Syriac version, take the words in charity as belonging to the next verse: who has predestinated us in charity, or love.

In order to understand these opening words of the Apostle, it may be useful to enumerate some of the shocking tenets of the heretics against whom this Epistle is directed, and which were more fully brought to light at a later period when they had been separated from the communion of the Church. These errors are fully detailed in the writings of Irenaeus and St. Clement.

It will be sufficient to say here that the followers of Simon Magus maintained, 1. That the Creator of the world was not the Supreme Being, but an evil or imperfect principle or agent; 2. That he was the enemy of Christ, and brought him to the cross; 3. That the heirs of salvation have a divine or angelic nature, derived from spheres beyond the knowledge of the Creator; 4. That their salvation is, therefore, the result, not of election but of creation; 5. That it depends on destiny, not on the will of the Creator; 6. That sanctity, or obedience to the laws of the Creator of the world, is a degrading servitude, and the contrary is the characteristic of the sons of light; 7. That the rest of the race of mankind are not objects of charity, but of scorn and hate, like their Creator, and incapable of salvation; 8. That knowledge, not love, is the perfection of humanity and the inheritance of the Saints. These errors are combatted throughout the present Epistle; and in the two verses now under consideration St. Paul asserts, 1. That our Creator is blessed; 2. That he has blessed us, that is, all baptized Christians, in Christ; 3. That he has chosen us before creation; 4. That he has chosen us to salvation; 5. That he has chosen us for Christ’s sake, from the foreknowledge that we should believe in Christ; 6. That he has chosen us to sanctification; 7. That sanctification is obtained and made perfect by charity; 8. That in charity he has predestinated us to life eternal.

To this may be added that the heretics appear to have considered the world to have existed from eternity, or at least the material from which it was framed, on which account St. Paul says that God laid, or cast down, the foundations of the world. And that angels, not Christ, are our true mediators with God; for which reason the Apostle avers that God has blessed us in heavenly places in Christ. It is possible that some of these wild opinions may be faintly reflected in the heresies or philosophies of modern times, but for the most part they are obsolete and forgotten, and the chief interest of the Epistle to the Ephesians consists in the sublime and beautiful exposition of the Christian philosophy with which St. Paul has crushed and refuted them, in this magnificent treatise, and which he derived directly from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

Eph 1:5 Who predestined us to the adoption of sons, through Jesus Christ, into him, according to the purpose of his will:

Who predestined us. The Apostle borrows this word, from the vocabulary of his opponents, who attributed. everything in human life to destiny, or the influence of an inexorable fate determined by mysterious powers presiding over the birth of every individual, and whose dictates could not be escaped. But he uses the term in a sense of his own, very different from theirs, declaring that God has, from the beginning of the world, appointed or predestined believers in Christ, to the adoption of sons. The same blessing he has described before, and now expands in further detail; to be chosen to sanctity is the same thing as to be predestined to sonship. For the saints are the sons of God. Through, by means of and for the sake of Jesus Christ, to him. The Greek text, as we have it now, reads εἰς αὐτός (eis auton), to himself; the translator of the Vulgate appears to have read eis auto, to him, that is, to Christ. According to the purpose of his will, or the good pleasure of his will, his own voluntary and spontaneous mercy and kindness, the sole origin and source of this infinite honour and benefit to man. It is clear that St. Paul understands that this adoption to be sons of God had already been conferred upon the Ephesian Christians in the laver of regeneration, to which God had chosen or predestined them from eternity. This was the immediate object of their predestination and election, to which these tended; and that he does not refer to any immediate election and predestination to glory, appears from these considerations. 1. The inscription, the Epistle being addressed to the saints and faithful, not to such as were chosen to glory. 2. The words of the text: predestined to sonship, which is the privilege of all believers. 3. The general tenor of the Epistle addressed to them. No one would venture to assert that none of the Ephesian Christians were damned; that the object of St. Paul in writing it was to assure them of salvation unconditionally, or that he meant to make their election to glory patent and public to all the world. That their attainment of eternal glory was the end of their election, there is no doubt; but it does not follow that the; mode of arriving at grace and glory are the same. This is, however, another and more general question; what is asserted here is that the Apostle is not treating of election or predestination to final glory, but election and predestination to the adoption of sons, which is the privilege of all baptized believers in Christ. They are chosen to sanctity. But it is evident, from the language of this Epistle, that the Ephesian Christians were not all saints. This election is not, therefore, absolute, but conditional. Absolute on the part of God, who gives the graces necessary for sanctity, but conditional, as assuming our own free cooperation with that grace.

Eph 1:6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, whereby he made us gracious in his beloved Son.

To the praise of the glory of his grace. The Syriac: that the praise of his grace may be celebrated. The final cause and object of our election and salvation is, that for God’s infinite love and mercy, praise and glory may be rendered to him by men and angels.

In which grace, or by which grace, he has made us gracious, endowed us with Christian graces, made us acceptable and beloved to himself, as his own sons. Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and place a ring on his hand, Lk 15:22. St. Chrysostom says: By this grace he not only freed us from our sins, but made us pleasing, and objects of love and affection to himself. As if he took up one who was foul and disfigured with pestilence, disease, and leprosy, enfeebled by age, ruined in fortune, and restoring him at once to youth, health, strength, and beauty, beyond all compare, and in the flower and fulness of his age, and the vigour of life, clothed him with purple,, placed a jeweled diadem upon his head, surrounded him with state and splendour. Thus has God recreated and adorned the soul of man, and made it brilliant and beautiful, lovely, amiable, and desirable in his sight.

In his beloved Son. The word Son is omitted in the Greek. In the Beloved. The Syriac: through his Beloved. Christ is essentially and by excellence the Beloved of the Father. The felicity of Deity consists in the eternal affection that reigns between the Father and the Son. The Son beholds the fulness of the Father’s glory ; the Father sees his own infinite perfection perfectly reflected in the Son, his image and likeness. And through our union with Christ we also are beloved, rendered amiable, gracious, acceptable, to God the Father, in the Beloved. The false doctrine of the heretics, that the sons of light have by creation, and of themselves, a different nature from other men, the development of which must bring them to ultimate glory, is contradicted by this statement of the Apostle, that we are gracious and acceptable in the sight of God only for the sake of Christ, and through union with liim.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 6

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle continues the subject of obedience and its reciprocal duties. He first inculcates on children, the duty of obedience to their parents, and assigns for this several motives, (Eph 6:1-3). He directs parents on the other hand, to avoid, in the education of their children, the excess of either severity or indulgence, and to instruct and correct them, according to the doctrine of the Lord (Eph 6:4).

The next class whom he instructs in the duty of obedience, are slaves, whom he enjoins to obey their temporal masters with reverence and sincerity, as Christ their Lord; and this not only in their presence, but always and in all places, serving them with benevolence and affection, keeping God in view, from whom they may expect an eternal recompense (Eph 6:5–8); and on masters he enjoins, on the other hand, the reciprocal duty of kindness and forbearance towards their slaves, knowing that they too have to render an account before a just Judge, who regards not the persons, but the merits of men (Eph 6:9).

After having laid down the rule of conduct which the Ephesians were to pursue in the different relations of life, the Apostle concludes the Epistle, with a general exhortation to fight manfully, in the spiritual struggle against the enemies of salvation (Eph 6:10). He exhorts them to put on the armour of God (Eph 6:11); he points out the power and cunning of their spiritual enemies. Hence the necessity of putting on the full spiritual panoply, the several parts of which he describes (Eph 6:12–17). But, as the victory must come from above; hence, the necessity of fervent prayer, which he entreats them to offer up, at all times, for all Christians (Eph 6:18), and for himself in particular, that he might receive strength to announce the Gospel with freedom and intrepidity (Eph 6:19). He sends Tychicus to console them, and concludes with a prayer to God, to grant the man increase of peace, and of all spiritual blessings (Eph 6:20-24).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Eph 6:1. Children obey your parents, as far as the law of God permits, that is to say, in all things not opposed to the will of God; for, this precept is grounded on the law of natural justice and equity.

“In the Lord.” Some Expositors join these words with “parents,” as if he said, “obey your Christian parents;” but, this is an erroneous construction. The words are to be understood as in Paraphrase; or thus—on account of the love and reverence you owe the Lord, whom you should regard in your parents. “For, this is just.” This precept of obeying their parents is founded on natural justice and equity.

Eph 6:2. There is also a divine positive law to the same effect; for, the precept, “honour thy father and thy mother,” is the first to which a special promise is attached, viz.:—

There is also a divine positive precept commanding the same. It is likewise the first of the commandments to which is attached a special promise, viz., length of days, and happiness even in this life. The wisdom of this promise will appear clear, if it be borne in mind, that the precept is imposed on young persons not fully capable of appreciating heavenly and eternal things, Hence, the promise involves what every one naturally desires, the moment he arrives at the use of reason, viz., a long and happy life even in this world.

Eph 6:3. That thou mayest enjoy a long and happy life on this earth.

“That it may be well,” &c. This is the special reward promised to dutiful children; and although we frequently see the best and most dutiful children hurried away prematurely to an untimely grave; we are not, still, to imagine that God is unmindful of his promise, since if he gives not specifically the thing promised, he gives something infinitely better and eminently containing it, viz., a happy life of eternal glory. This promise of a long life is not of such an absolute nature as that God is bound by it to grant a long life in this world to dutiful children; it only warrants such children to hope for a long and happy life, “that thou mayest be long-lived,” &c.

Eph 6:4. And you, parents, on the other hand, avoid provoking your children to anger, by undue or untimely severity; but take care to educate them in wholesome instruction, administering also the mild, moderate correction, which the law of God prescribes as just and salutary.

Parents, on the other hand, should not treat their children in a brutal or tyrannical manner, nor act as cruel task-masters in their regard; they should, rather, “bring them up in discipline,” by instructing them in the proper motives for practising one thing and avoiding the other. “And correction of the Lord;” they should not fail to correct and chastise them, when necessary in a spirit of parental fondness and charity, conformably to the doctrine of our Lord.

Eph 6:5. Servants obey your earthly masters, who have dominion over your bodies, with great diligence, reverencing them interiorly, and manifesting that reverence exteriorly, obeying them with sincere and good faith, as if you were obeying Christ.

The next class whom he instructs in their respective duties of obedience on the one hand, and of kindness and forbearance on the other, are masters and servants, or rather, slaves; for, he refers to the class of persons engaged in the hardships of servitude. Without entering on the question respecting the lawfulness or unlawfulness of slavery, the Apostle, in a spirit of heavenly wisdom, points out the duties which master and slaves owe each other, so long as the relations of master and slave may subsist between them. The slave should obey his earthly master, with great diligence. “Fear and trembling” convey that they should serve with great diligence and care, accompanied with interior and exterior reverence. “In the simplicity of your heart, as to Christ,” i.e., serving them with good faith and uprightness, as if they were obeying Christ himself.—(See 1 Corinthians 7:20–24).

Eph 6:6. Not only in their presence, when their eyes are upon you, as is done by those who have only in view to please men, but like persons enlisted in the service of Christ, performing with cheerfulness the duties which the will of God has marked out for you.

“Not serving to the eye,” i.e., not merely acting with a view to please your masters when present, and when their eyes are upon you, “as it were pleasing men,” as those do whose only object is to please men; “but as the servants of Christ,” &c. but acting as men who are engaged in the service of Christ, whom your earthly master represent, and whose all-seeing eye is ever fixed upon you.

Eph 6:7. Serving your masters with sincere feelings of benevolence, as if it were the Lord, and not men, you were serving.

“With a good will serving,” i.e., while engaged in their service, entertaining for them feelings of benevolence, and sincerely anxious to promote their interests, “as to the Lord,” &c., as if you were serving Christ, who will one day reward you.

Eph 6:8. Knowing from the principles of our holy faith, that it is according to their good works God will reward all his creatures, no matter what their condition, be they slaves or free.

“Knowing that whatsoever good,” &c. Knowing, that in bestowing his rewards, God will recompense each person acccording to the good he shall have performed, without minding what his condition may be, whether in a state of freedom or servitude. What an important lesson is here conveyed by the Apostle to all who are placed under the direction of superiors! They should look upon them as holding the place of God in their regard, and should do nothing from the sole motive of pleasing them only, but they should do all for God—“maledictus omnis qui confidit in homine,” “cursed be the man that trusteth in man.”—(Jeremiah 17:5).

Eph 6:9. And do you, masters, manifest in a corresponding degree the same feelings of fidelity and benevolence towards your servants which have been inculcated on them towards you, remitting the punishment with which you menaced them, and which you are empowered by law to inflict, knowing that you, too, have a master in heaven, from whom you expect forgiveness, and with whom there is no exception of persons.

In this verse the Apostle inculcates the duties which the masters owe their slaves. They should manifest in a corresponding degree, and as far as the relations of masters demand, the same feelings of fidelity and kindness, &c.

“Forbearing threatenings:” These words, besides the interpretation given in Paraphrase, may also mean, ceasing from all threatening or menacing conduct; treating them in a humane, kind and benevolent manner. The interpretation in the Paraphrase appears the more probable, if we look to the following words: “knowing that the Lord both of them and you is in heaven.” For which we have, in the common Greek text, knowing that your master also is in heaven, whose forgiveness you stand in need of; and hence, you should forgive the offences committed against you (as in Paraphrase). The chief MSS. support the Vulgate, εἰδότες ὅτι και αὐτῶν και ὑμῶν ὁ κυριος εστιν ἐν οὐρανοις.

Eph 6:10. Finally, brethren, assume courage, relying on the Lord, who is your captain in the warfare in which you are continually engaged, and on the might of his strength.

“Finally, brethren.” (in the common Greek, my brethren). The pronoun is wanting in many manuscripts, and the words, “my brethren,” are not found at all in the Codex Vaticanus. After having laid down the rule of conduct to be followed by the Ephesians in the several relations of life, the Apostle concludes the Epistle by a general exhortation to fight manfully in the struggle wherein they are continually engaged against the enemies of salvation. For a soldier, two things are indispensable to secure success, viz., courage and arms. In this verse, he tells them to assume courage, relying on the Lord, &c.

Eph 6:11. And put on the panoply, and complete armour of God, that you may be able to stand against and frustrate the insidious attacks of the devil.

“The armour of God.” In the Greek it is, την πανοπλιαν, the panoply, or complete suit of armour. “The deceits of the devil.” By the “devil,” some understand, adversary. From the following verse it is clear, however, that the word refers to the spirit of darkness, to that infernal adversary, who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking for his prey.—(1 Peter 5:8).

Eph 6:12. For our wrestling is not merely against weak men, composed of flesh and blood like ourselves? but against the evil spirits who fell from the orders of principalities and powers, and are themselves most powerful; against those spirits who exert their power in this lower darksome world—against wicked, cunning spirits, who dwell in the air, whence they descend to wage their fiendish war against us.

The reason why we should be thus securely clad in full and complete armour, is derived from the nature of the enemies whom we have to combat. For, our adversaries are “not flesh and blood,” i.e., men like ourselves, but “principalities and powers,” wicked spirits who fell from these, as well as from all the other orders of angels, and retained, even after their fall, the names of the respective orders, to which they belonged. Under “principalities and powers,” are included all the other orders of fallen spirits; but the Apostle expressly specifies “principalities and powers,” to give an idea of their very great power, and of the dominion which they exercise over sinners. It seems the more probable opinion, that angels fell from each of the nine orders of blessed Spirits at the instigation of Lucifer, their rebel chief, to whom Isaias alludes, under the figure of the haughty King of Babylon (Isa 14:12), and Ezechiel (Eze 28:17), under that of the King of Tyre. Dazzled with his own superior excellence, out of pride he aspired to be like unto God, and drew a great part of the heavenly host after him in his revolt.—(Rev 12:4). In an instant, they were hurled from their abode of bliss and condemned to hell.—(2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). While some of these wicked spirits are confined to the abyss, others are permitted at large, till the last day.—(Luke 8:31). Some of these dwell in the air, whence the descend to wage their fiendish war with mankind. St. Jerome assures us, in his commentary on this passage, that “it is the common opinion of all the learned, that the entire space or vacuum between heaven and earth is filled with these hostile powers.” The power of these fiends is very great, owing to the perfection of their nature. For, it is the common opinion, that they are not shorn of their innate natural strength by their fall, although restrained in its exercise; just as a sinner who falls from grace, still retains the strength of his nature. These spirits have exerted great powers in several instances by divine permission. They hurried the swine into the lake, killed the husbands of Sara, slew armies in one night, often stirred up tempests, and struck whole provinces with terror. We are told by Job, “there is no power on earth which can be compared with him who was made to fear no one.”—(Job 12:24). God sometimes permits these wicked spirits to exert their innate strength on natural agents through secondary causes, in causing diseases among men, in raising storms, and producing other physical evils in this world. Such effects are sometimes ascribed to the wicked spirits in SS. Scripture (vide Calmet sur les Mauvais Anges.) The power of the devil is greatly restricted since the coming of Christ.—(Rev 20:2-3). But, sometimes, he is permitted, even now, to exert his malice against man. To counteract the exercise of his power, we have the exorcisms and prayers of the Church—(See Butler’s Lives of Saints, October 2nd.) Such are the enemies we have to encounter, in our warfare here below. How powerful! Although the flesh and the world tempt us as well as the demon; still, he is the principal enemy, and the others he uses as instruments. “Against the rulers of the world of this darkness.” This more probably refers to the power which the demons exercise in this lower material world, by making use of creatures to tempt man and injure him. This innate power of the fallen angels is, however, restricted in its exercise, and dependent on the permission of God. He says “of this darkness,” to confine this power to the lower world, lest it be imagined they were rulers of the entire universe. Others understand the words to refer to the spiritual dominion which the demons exercise over infidels, idolaters, and all others who maintain vice and ignorance, and oppose the truth. “Against spirits of wickedness,” i.e., wicked, cunning spirits. The Greek, προς τὰ πνευματικα τῆς πονηρίας, literally is, against the spiritual things of wickedness. “In the high places.” The Greek, εν τοις επουρανιοις, literally means, in the heavenly places. Here, it means the higher regions of the atmosphere.

Eph 6:13. Having, therefore, such adversaries to combat, take unto you the full and complete armour of God, in order that you may be able to resist in the day of peril and temptation, so that, having been perfectly equipped, and furnished with armour in every respect, you may be able to stand your ground, and conquer your enemies.

“And to stand in all things perfect,” i.e., fully armed and equipped for battle. The Greek will also bear another meaning, giving the word “perfect” an active signification, thus: after having perfected or accomplished all the duties of a soldier, or, after having vanquished all your enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, ἅπαντα κατεργασάμενοι (omnia perficientes), you may be able to hold out and enjoy your victory, δυληθῆτε στῆναι. This interpretation gives the word “perfect” an active signification. The Vulgate reading is, however, preferable.

Eph 6:14. Stand, therefore, in battle, having your loins girt with truth for a belt, and with justice, for a breastplate.

“Stand therefore.” The first part of military training is to stand to their arms. “Having your loins girt with truth,” as a belt. The first part of the Christian panoply is the belt, which is “truth,” i.e., sincerity and fidelity in fulfilling one’s words and promises. In which sense it is said of our Redeemer, “erit fides (i.e., fidelitas), cinctorium lumborum ejus.” The next is the “breastplate,” which is “justice,” i.e., the general virtue or practice of universal holiness. For, as the breastplate defends the principal and vital parts of man, so shall the general practice of holiness preserve the soul and conscience of a Christian against sin, the arms which the devil uses in the warfare.

Eph 6:15. And let your shoes or boots be a prompt alacrity and ready willingness to follow at any risk the way of the gospel—the message of peace from heaven to earth—and announce it to heretics and infidels.

The shoes are the next part of the armour, which signify the prompt alacrity to walk in the way of the gospel, and to proclaim the message of peace contained in it to heretics and infidels, and to defend it against all attacks. This alacrity and promptitude to practise the precepts of the gospel, and announce it to others, is properly compared to boots, because the fervent are prepared for all difficulties, as those who are shod are prepared for the most arduous journeys and paths.

Eph 6:16. In all temptations, taking the shield of faith, whereby you may be enabled to repel and extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked and most subtle enemy.

“In all things,” by which some understand, “above or before all things.” The exposition in Paraphrase is preferable. “Extinguish the fiery darts,” &c. In these words, allusion is made to a most destructive species of warfare anciently resorted to, viz., that of shooting arrows to which was attached combustible matter for the purpose of firing the tents, &c., of the enemy. Reference is made to them in Herodotus and Thucydides. The best mode of neutralizing their effects was to extinguish these arrows, which was done most effectually, by opposing to them some hard matter, such as shields. In the spiritual combat, such “fiery darts” mean fierce, violent temptations. The most effectual way of extinguishing these temptations of the devil and the flesh, is by opposing to them the “shield of faith,” i.e., the consideration of the truths of faith above all, of the four last things, and of the menaces, the punishments, and rewards which they point out to us.

Eph 6:17. And take unto you for helmet, the hope of salvation; and take for sword, supplied you by the Holy Ghost, the truths revealed by God, and firmly believed by faith.

The next part of the panoply is, the helmet, by which is meant “salvation,” or, as it is more clearly expressed (Thessalonians 5:8), “the hope of salvation.” Because as the helmet protects the head, so does the hope of future rewards direct to good our thoughts and our intentions, which are the heads of our actions. “And the sword of the spirit,” &c. The only offensive weapon mentioned is “the sword,” by which is meant “the word of God,” i.e., the revealed truths of faith, whether known from Scripture or Tradition; for the knowledge of the truths of faith, the rewards and punishments of a future life, will make the Christian soldier more vigilant not to be taken by surprise; more resolute and determined to battle manfully and perseveringly against the enemy. Or, according to others, the revealed word of God will supply the Christian soldier with ample means of refuting the gainsayer, whether infidel or heretic. The former meaning is preferable, because the enemies in the combat are the spirits of wickedness.

Eph 6:18. Thus armed, you must expect victory from God alone, continually imploring him fervently from your heart and soul by all prayer and supplication; and for this purpose, watching with perseverance, and praying not only for yourselves, but also for all Christians.

But no matter how well they may be armed, the victory must come from above, and be obtained by fervent prayer. This victory is to come from God; without the aid of his all-powerful grace, they are sure to fall a prey to their spiritual enemies: and prayer, presented with the proper dispositions, is an indispensable means for obtaining the graces, the spiritual aids and helps so necessary to achieve this victory. “Ask and you shall receive;” hence, if we ask not, we shall not receive. “By all prayer and supplication” probably signify the same thing; they denote earnestness in prayer, “praying at all times in the spirit,” as the enemy is exceedingly malicious and crafty, and in all places, at all times, and by all means, seeks to destroy us; so we must pray for aid against his assaults, at all times, in all places, and with all possible fervour. “In the same watching.” In the Greek, εἰς αὐτο αγρυπνουντες, “watching thereunto,” i.e., for the same purpose; or, in order to pray fervently on all occasions, we must be constantly on the watch and pray for all Christians.

Eph 6:19. And for me in particular, that whenever I open my mouth to announce the gospel, words may be supplied to me whereby I may freely and intrepidly proclaim the mystery of the gospel.

“May open my mouth,” i.e., whenever I open my mouth to preach, words may be given me, &c. “The mystery of the Gospel,” i.e., the Gospel which is a mystery concealed for ages from the world, at least, so far as the vocation of the Gentiles is concerned. Hence, the efficacy of the prayers of the saints. If St. Paul sets such value on the prayers of the saints on earth, how can we for an instant deny the efficacy of their prayers, when nearer to God? And if the prayers on earth are not injurious to the merits of Christ, how can their prayers in heaven detract from the same merits? Hence, we should pray for the prelates of the Church, that they may discharge their exalted functions, so as to advance the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, the price of the blood of a God, for every one of whom these prelates shall, one day, render an account, “judicium durissimum his qui præsunt.”

Eph 6:20. On account of which gospel I am now discharging the office of Apostolic ambassador, even in chains; pray, therefore, for me, that I may be endowed with courage to announce it with proper firmness and intrepidity.

Eph 6:21. But as to the manner in which my own affairs stand, and what I am doing, all these things, Tychicus, our most beloved brother and faithful minister of Christ, will make known to you.

From this it is inferred, that Tychicus had been the bearer of this letter.

Eph 6:22. Whom I have sent to make known to you the state of our affairs, and to console your hearts.

Eph 6:23. Peace and concord to our Christian brethren; may they enjoy an increase of faith and charity from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Charity,” or brotherly love, is the principle, conservative of “peace,” and “faith,” the foundation of “charity.”

Eph 6:24. Grace, i.e., the abundance of all spiritual gifts, be to all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ, in sanctity of life and purity of morals.

“In incorruption,” i.e., with a pure love, free from all carnal defilement. In this, he probably alludes to the followers of Simon Magus, who, although indulging in the most abominable impurities, still professed that they loved our Lord Jesus Christ. The love which shall ensure the abundance of grace is a pure and holy love, a practical love, manifested in the observance of his commandments.

The subscription of some Greek copies has: “Written to the Ephesians, from Rome, by Tychicus.” This seems to be correct. The Codex Vaticanus has, Προς Εφεσιους, εγραφη απο Ρωμης, “Written to the Ephesians from Rome.” This, although correct, does not, any more than the former, belong to the text; and was, probably, added by some more recent hand.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts the Ephesians to love one another after the example of God (Eph 4:32), and also after the example of Christ, who sacrificed himself for us (Eph 5:1-2). He exhorts them to shun all impurity both in word and deed, because wholly unsuited to the exalted state of sanctity to which they were called, and because it provokes the punishment of exclusion from God’s eternal inheritance (Eph 5:3-5). He cautions them against listening to the false teachings of some men on this head (Eph 5:6). He dissuades them from all participation whatsoever, in the wicked conduct of their Pagan neighbours. He, on the contrary, adduces several motives of persuasion, to encourage them to set forth, by the pure and bright contrast of their holy lives, in darker and more hideous colours, the wicked deeds of the others (Eph 6:7–15).

He exhorts them to act with wise caution and circumspection in their intercourse with the Pagans, considering the perilous nature of the days upon which they had fallen (Eph 5:15–18). He cautions them against excessive indulgence in wine, and exhorts them to seek consolation from a different source—viz., the Spirit of God; and he points out how, in their different meetings, they are to express their joy in the Holy Ghost, by singing psalms, and other spiritual songs, and by expressing their thankfulness to God (Eph 5:19-20).

He next lays down a general principle of Christian policy, relative to the duties of subjection and subordination, in the different states of life (Eph 5:21). Descending to particulars, he devotes the remainder of this chapter to the instruction of those engaged in the marriage state, as to the duties they mutually owe each other. In this state, the woman is the party on whom the duty of obedience devolves. He shows the relation of subjection which she bears her husband, to be similar to that which the Church bears to Christ; and hence, she should be subject to him, as the Church is to Christ (Eph 5:22–24), He, on the other hand, adduces the same analogy of relation, as a reason why husbands should love their wives. They hold in their regard a relation of headship, similar to that which Christ holds in regard to the Church (Eph 5:25–27). Another reason for this love is founded on the nature of the conjugal union between man and wife (Eph 5:28-29). He, next, points out the ground of the comparison of the man and wife with Christ and his Church, by showing that the Church is a part of Christ, and for this purpose he quotes in a mystical sense, the passage in Genesis, where reference is made to the creation of the woman (Eph 5:30). He quotes more largely from the passage in Genesis, in order to develop more fully the motive referred to (in verse 28), and shows the union between man and wife to be a type of the indissoluble and mystic union between Christ and his Church (Eph 5:31-32). He applies to the Ephesians the motives already adduced, and calls upon husbands and wives to attend to them (Eph 5:33).

Text in pruple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Eph 5:1. Since, therefore, God hath pardoned you in Christ, be ye imitators of God, as children are wont to imitate the parents, by whom they are most tenderly loved.

“Be ye, therefore, followers of God.” In Greek, μιμηται, “imitators of God.” These words are immediately connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter. “As most dear children,” i.e., as children greatly beloved by God.

Eph 5:2. And exercise the duty of fraternal charity in all its parts, both in pardoning injuries and doing good so far as to sacrifice your lives, if necessary, for the good of our neighbour, after the example of Christ, who delivered himself up for our redemption, a most perfect victim—corresponding with all the ends, and comprising within itself all the properties, of the ancient offerings—and most acceptable with God.

“And walk in love.” This is a point in which we are called upon to imitate God. There are many other things in which we cannot imitate him, but only admire and adore him. “As Christ also hath loved us and delivered himself for us.” The Apostle proposes the example of our Redeemer as a second motive to exercise fraternal charity; and he leaves it to be inferred, that we also, like him, should love one another, Even at the sacrifice of life, if necessary; for, he died for us when we were his enemies by sin. “Since he hath laid down his life for us, so should we also lay down our live for our brethren.”—(1 John, chap 3)

“And delivered himself for us.” Every word has force. Who delivered himself?—God. For whom? For us, his creatures and enemies by sin. To what did he deliver himself? To a death of unparalleled ignominy and tortures. “Ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti?”

“An oblation and a sacrifice.” These words mean that he offered himself as a most perfect victim, comprising all the qualities of victims, bloody or unbloody, and corresponding to all the ends of the ancient sacrifices, whether holocaust, peace offering, sin offering, &c.

“For an odour of sweetness,” or, most sweet odour, denotes its acceptance with God. The phrase is frequently employed in reference to the acceptability of the ancient sacrifices, as in Genesis, and elsewhere.

Eph 5:3. But let neither fornication nor uncleanness of any sort, nor avarice be so much as named, much less practised amongst you, as becomes persons called to such an exalted state of sanctity, and whose very words should, therefore, be holy.

“Covetousness,” πλεονεξια, means, in general, an excessive greediness for an object, such as riches, honours, &c. Here, according to some, it denotes an excessive greediness for gratifying carnal pleasures; because, of the love of money—the usual meaning of the word—it could hardly be said, “let it not be named” since the mention of the love of wealth bears no opposition to sanctity. It is better, however to understand the word as denoting a love of wealth—its usual meaning—and then, “named,” is used to express their total abhorrence of the practice of such vices.

Eph 5:4. Nor obscene, nor foolish, unmeaning language, nor ill-directed pleasantry or buffoonery, which are unsuited to the gravity and sanctity of the Christian profession. But let the language in use amongst you rather be the language of thanksgiving, of edification and instruction.

“Scurrility,” denotes excessive facetiousness, having for object merely to excite laughter, probably mixed up with improper allusions, a thing by no means unusual with professed wits, even among Christians. The Greek word, ευτραπελια, means also urbanity, and may be taken in a good sense, to denote lawful conversational amusement, conducive to health and cheerfulness; but here the word is taken in a bad sense involving obscene ribaldry. “But rather the giving of thanks.” Hence, the ancient mode of salutation in use among Christians, thanks be to God, as we are informed by St. Augustine (Epistle 77). “Which is to no purpose.” The ordinary Greek is, τα ουκ ανηκοντα, which are not convenient, an expression for indecency. The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. have the perfect tense, ἅ ουκ ἀνῆκεν.

Eph 5:5. For, be assured of this, and understand it well as a thing of the greatest importance, no matter what you may be told to the contrary, that no person guilty of fornication or other uncleanness, or who is the slave of avarice, which is the worship of idols, shall have a share in the inheritance of the kingdom of God and of Christ.

“Unclean,” refers to the private sins of impurity. “Or covetous,” πλεονέκτης. There is the same diversity of opinion regarding this word, as there is regarding “covetousness” (verse 3). It more probably denotes the passion, or insatiable desire of unjustly and rapaciously accumu aung riches, and this passion may justly be termed “idolatry,” because the miser’s God is his money, and avarice in particular causes its wretched slave to place all his hopes and ultimate end, to concentrate all his thoughts and cares in his wretched hoard; the more he acquires, the more greedy and insatiable does he become—even age, which weakens the other passions, serves to increase and strengthen this. “Of Christ and of God,” τοῦ Χριστοῦ και θεοῦ, “of the Christ, and of God,” i.e., of Christ, who is God.

Eph 5:6. Let no one seduce you on this point by idle and fallacious reasonings. For, it is on account of the foregoing crimes that the heavy anger and vengeance of God is in store for the unbelievers, who neither have faith nor obey God, prohibiting such things.

“Let no man deceive you.” He alludes particularly to the followers of Simon Magus, who asserted, that the sovereign rulers of the universe were honoured by the hateful practices here referred to by the Apostle. “Let no one,” be he philosopher or heretic, “deceive you,” by bland words.

“Cometh the anger of God.” The verb “cometh” has a future reference, and means, “the anger of God is in store for, and at future day shall be poured out upon, “the children,” i.e., men of “unbelief,” of obstinate impersuasibility. The Greek word for “unbelief,” ἀπειθεία, means, contumacious, unreasoning rejection of a thing, without admitting a rational persuasion.

Eph 5:7. Be not, therefore, partakers of their crimes, lest you be involved in their punishment.
Eph 5:8. Such a partnership in crime is wholly at variance with your present calling. You were formerly, indeed, among the children of error and unbelief, but now you are enlightened in the principles of Christian faith and morality. Lead, therefore, the lives of men instructed in Christian virtue, and taught to hold in abhorrence the hideous crime of Paganism.
Eph 5:9. (For the fruits of Christian grace and faith are the works of goodness and benevolence, of justice and truth).

And that as children of light (see verse 10), they should perform works altogether different from those which they practised in Paganism, is clear from the circumstance, that the works of light, or of grace and Christian faith, are opposed to the works of darkness or Paganism. The fruit of grace and faith consists in works of “goodness” and benevolence towards our neighbour—opposed to the spirit of anger and ill will, denounced in the preceding chapter. “Of justice,” opposed to the thefts and injustices there referred to (verse 28). “And of truth,” i.e., works done in candour and openness—opposed to the lies referred to in the last chapter. “The fruit of the light.” In the common Greek, it is, καρπος τοῦ πνεῦματος, the fruit of the spirit. The Vulgate reading, is, however, best supported by the authority of the chief MSS. and Versions.

Eph 5:10. Live, like children of light, diligently examining what is the will of God, and faithfully complying with it.

The preceding verse is to be enclosed in a parenthesis (as in Paraphrase), and this verse to be immediately connected with verse 8. The first care of a Christian should be to discover the holy and adorable will of God; and the next, to endeavour to fulfil it. “Thy holy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” “To God.” In Greek, τῳκυρίω, to the Lord.

Eph 5:11. And hold no communication cither by act, approval, or consent, with the unfruitful works of darkness; but, on the contrary, reprove such works, and those who do them, by the contrast of your own bright example, and manifest by every means, your utter abhorrence of them.

“Unfruitful works of darkness.” They are called “unfruitful,” because, far from bringing any advantage, they may cause evil to the man who performs them—“Stipendium peccati, mors.”—Romans, 6:23.

Eph 5:12. Hold no communication with such persons; for, the things that they do in secret, are too disgraceful to be uttered.

He gives a reason for his injunction in the first part of verse 11, to hold no communication with these deeds or the perpetrators of them. “It is a shame to speak of.” He probably refers to the disgraceful deeds of the followers of Simon Magus, whose doctrines and deeds of lust were intolerable, and too shameful to mention.

Eph 5:13. Pursuing an opposite line of conduct, by the light of your good example, you should reprove them; for all the things that are brought forth to public gaze and reproved by the contrast, are made manifest by the light—it being the nature of light to enlighten—and it is the peculiar property of light—nothing else can do it—for, everything that manifests, is light.

In this verse he assigns a reason for the latter part of verse 11. “But rather reprove them.” Why? Because, it is the nature of light to enlighten. “All things that are reproved, are manifested by the light,” and nothing else can do it; for, this power to enlighten is the peculiar property of light, “for all that manifests is light.” In this interpretation, the verb, “that is made manifest,” which, in the Greek, is a participle, in the middle voice, φανερουμενον, admitting of either an active or passive signification, is taken actively to mean, that manifests; for, it is not easy to see, how it is universally true to say, that everything “that is manifested is light.” Are not sins oftentimes manifested?—and do they, by being made manifest, become light? Moreover, the Apostle is here condemning that against which he cautions them, with the view of inducing them to avoid it altogether. Now, he could not so zealously exhort them to avoid it, if it became light. Nor can it be said, that by being made manifest, sins shall be abandoned and commuted in the light of the gospel; for, in all probability, many of those referred to here by the Apostle never were converted.

Eph 5:14. Hence, because it is the peculiar property of light to enlighten, the Scripture says:—Arise thou that sleepest (in sin), and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Whence are these words taken? Some, with St. Jerome, think they were taken from some Apocryphal book; or, that the Apostle himself, under the influence of a prophetic spirit, now expresses them in the name of the Holy Ghost, as the prophets of old used to say—“hæc dicit Dominus.” Others, with St. Thomas (and this is the more probable opinion), refer them to the 60th chapter of Isaias, in which, addressing the mystic Jerusalem, or the Church, he says—“Surge, illuminare Jerusalem” &c., which is applied by St. Paul, with some change in the words, to his present subject, as they refer almost to the same subject of which he here treats. In this verse, is pointed out the concurrence of man’s free will with the preventing graces of God. These graces find a man in an absolute inability to rouse himself to supernatural acts; they rouse him from this spiritual lethargy; and, if he correspond with them, he shall receive further graces, co-operating graces, &c.

Eph 5:15. As, therefore, you are bound to reprove by the bright contrast of your lives, the evil deeds of the wicked and unbelievers; see that you live circumspectly, not as foolish persons, who desert the path of virtue.
Eph 5:16. But as wise men, who tread the path of rectitude, making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of manifesting and bringing to light the evil deeds of others, to the edification of our holy faith, which condemns such enormities; for, the days of this life are uncertain, and hence, the present should be turned to good account.

“But as wise,” following the path of virtue, which is true wisdom. “Redeeming the time,” which may mean (as in Paraphrase), making good use of the present opportunity, which is given you to reprove, by the contrast of your lives, and manifest the evil deeds of others, &c. In this interpretation, “the time” means opportunity, a signification which the Greek word, καιρον, admits. According to others, “time” refers to the time past, and the sentence means; redouble your exertions during the time that remains for you, and by parting with pleasures, and, in many instances, foregoing an increase of temporal blessings in your zealous exertions for religion, you shall pay for and purchase back the time that has been uselessly squandered. “Because the days are evil.” These words, if connected with “redeeming the time,” mean, because the time of the present life is uncertain, and, therefore, to be turned to good account; if with the words, “walk circumspectly,” they mean, because the times are dangerous to faith and morals, replete with trials and persecutions. How many squander away this precious treasure of time, this priceless pearl, upon the good use of which depends a happy eternity. Let us interrogate the damned in Hell, or the suffering in Purgatory, or the blessed in Heaven, and they shall give an idea of the priceless value of this time, which we squander. Should we not be as avaricious of this priceless treasure of time, as the miser is of his hoard, for every moment of which we shall one day be called upon to account? How careful should we be to work while the day lasts, to lay up a treasure of merit against that dreary, never-ending night of eternity, in which no one can work. Knowing that there cannot be too much security when eternity is at stake, and that the most important of all concerns—the only necessary end of our being—cannot be left to mere chance, how careful should we be to have our lamps trimmed, and be ever ready for the coming of our heavenly Bridegroom, that when he shall come in the middle of the night—the time he may least be expected—we may, after having wisely “redeemed the time,” be found worth, with the wise Virgins, to be admitted to that marriage feast, in which his friends shall join without fear of its ever terminating for all eterinty. How frequently should we ponder, in the heart, on those dreadful words: EVER; NEVER. EVER to continue NEVER to end. Oh! precious moment of time, on which depends an Eternity whether of happiness or woe.

Eph 5:17. Wherefore, be not incautious in your conduct, but see what it is God wishes from you.

It is probable that the Apostle here refers to their intercourse with the heathens, for it is to them he alludes to in his Epistle to the Colossians (Col 4:5), where he uses a similar expression: “Walk with wisdom towards them that are without redeeming the time.” The Greek word for “unwise,” αφρονες, means, out of their mind. It probably contains an allusion to the drunken orgies of the Pagans practised on the festivals of Bacchus. To this the Apostle appears to allude, next verse, in the caution he gives against drunkenness.

Eph 5:18. And be not drunk with wine, in which drunken ness, or wine (if taken to excess), there is a tendency to profligacy and dissoluteness. But be filled with the Holy Ghost, the principal and source of grace and spiritual joy.

“Wherein,” ἐν ᾦ, may refer either to “wine,” or to the phrase, “drunk with wine,” “is luxury.” This is literally true of drunkenness, and of wine, if taken to excess. It is hard to suppose that a drunkard can be chaste. It would appear to be here revealed, at least by implication, that he cannot.—“Venter æstuans unno spumat in libidinem.”—St. Jerome. Would that those strong drinkers of wine weighed well this truth, of which a sad experience must have convinced them. “Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and stout men at drunkenness.”—(Isa 5:22). Total abstinence is, undoubtedly, most meritorious in the sight of God, and to be encouraged by all means. “Filled with the Holy Spirit.” The word “Holy,” is not in the Greek; it simply is, εν πνευματι, with the Spirit.

Eph 5:19. Reciting and singing among yourselves, whether in your public or private meetings, psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles; singing and chanting them, not only with your tongues, but also from your hearts, unto the honour of the Lord.

The Apostle, after opposing the Spirit of God to the mad inspiration of wine, and cautioning the Ephesians against seeking joy in drunkenness, like the Pagans, wishes them to seek consolation from the Holy Ghost, and he shows how this is to be done. If they assemble for purposes of joy, either in the sacred temples to celebrate the Agapes, which, in the infancy of the Church, were preparatory to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist—(1st Corinthians, chapter 11), or, in their private houses, instead of imitacing the dissolute songs of their Pagan neighbours, they should give expression to their inward joy in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles.” Music and song were among the favourite enjoyments of both Jews and Gentiles, as the inspired writers inform us regarding the former, and profane writers regarding the latter. Amorous and dissolute songs were those in use, at Pagan entertainments. Hence, the Apostle, to prevent this inconvenience among the Christians, and actuated by the spirit of divine wisdom, which at all times directs the Church to accommodate herself, as far as possible, to the pre-existing practices of the converted Gentiles, or, at least, to give them a religious turn, wishes they should convert this usage to good account, by expressing their joy of soul in the praises of God. This advice regarding the singing of “psalms,” &c., had been carried out in the early Church, and was then necessary: the practice commended has also continued with us, so far as religious meetings in the Church are concerned; but as to private entertainments, it has passed away and fallen into disuse, like many other usages of the primitive Church (v.g.), the Agapes, or love feasts, &c. It is no longer necessary, as we have an abundance of other songs of a praiseworthy kind, besides sacred songs—nor is there any danger of our adopting the dissolute songs of the Pagans. So that now, such is the universal usage, the singing of sacred songs could not be resorted to with propriety at private entertainments. It is not easy to see the difference between “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs.” “Psalm,” in general, means a song, particularly a song accompanied with the harp. It here refers to sacred pieces, executed on musical instruments, including not only the Psalms of David, but also the inspired compositions of those, who received this gift in the infancy of the Church.—(1st Corinthians 14:26). “Hymns,” are songs in which are proclaimed the attributes and praises of God. They were composed in rhythmical measures. “Spiritual songs”—sacred poems, usually recited, or sung without the aid of musical accompaniments. “In your hearts.” The Greek is, τῇ καρδία ὑμῶν, “in jour heart.” The plural is found in MSS. generally.

Eph 5:20. Always giving thanks for all the blessings and graces bestowed on us, to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone our thanksgiving can be acceptable with God, and through whom we have received the graces necessary for salvation.

“Always giving thanks,” i.e., by performing actions at all times good, and referrible to God; for, it is impossible to be always engaged in acts of thanksgiving. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” because it is owing to his grace that the natural advantages we have—viz., our life, &c., should tend to our salvation; and, secondly, because it is through him alone, they are worthy of acceptance.

Eph 5:21. Be subject one to another, the inferior exhibiting obedience to the superior, and the superior reciprocally accommodating himself to the wants of the inferior; and this, from the motive of the reverential fear of Christ.

In this verse, the Apostle lays down a general principle of Christian polity; he inculcates the duty of obedience and subordination, in the different relations of life. Of course, from the very nature of the precept, it is issued to the inferior only, or, to such as are subject to others. At the same time, he inculcates the reciprocal duties, which the relation of superior requires, as may be seen from the examples which he adduces. “Of Christ.” In the common Greek text, of God. The Vulgate reading, “of Christ,” is that of the chief MSS., and the one commonly adopted.

Eph 5:22. Let women be subject to their husbands, as to Christ our Lord himself, whose place the husbands hold in their regard.

He particularizes the instances in which obedience is due, commencing with the marriage state, in which the woman is the party on whom the duty of obedience devolves, “As the Lord,” ως τῷ κυρίω, which some interpret, as your masters. This is evidently incorrect, since the text runs thus—“Be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord.” It should have been written as Lords, in the other interpretation. In the common Greek text, for “let women be subject to their husbands,” it is, αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδιοις ανδρασιν υποτασσεσθε, “Women, be ye subject to your own husbands.” The Vulgate is the reading of the Alexandrian MSS. In the Codex Vaticanus, the words “be subject,” or “let them be subject,” is altogether wanting. St. Jerome did not find the verse, in either form, in the Greek copies.

Eph 5:23. Because, as Christ is the head of the Church, the Guardian and Saviour of his mystic body; so is the husband the moral head of the wife, given her for a protector and guardian.

He points out the relation which the husband bears with regard to the wife. The headship of Christ is principally under the relation of being the guardian and deliverer of his Church, as is clear from the words, “he is the Saviour of his body;” under which relation only, can his headship be compared with that of the husband. In the common Greek, the words run thus—καὶ αὐτὸς ἐστι σωτηρ τοῦ σώματος, and he is the Saviour of the body. And, is generally rejected by critics. It is wanting in the Codex Vaticanus. The Greek interpreters understand the words of the husband and wife. It is, however, more probable, that they refer to Christ in quality of Saviour of his mystic body, the Church, as the Latins understand them.

Eph 5:24. (From this parity of relations, should follow a parity or similarity of duties) as the Church is obedient to Christ, because he is her head; for the same reason, ought the wife be subject to her husband, in all the things, to which his power and superiority lawfully extend.

Eph 5:25. (Hence also the parity of reciprocal duties); husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church of which he is the head and spouse, from the impulse of which love, he delivered himself up to death for her.

Eph 5:26. In order to sanctify her, cleansing from all stain of sin, in the water of Baptism, received with the necessary disposition of faith in the revealed word, which disposes to spiritual life.

“By the laver of water in the word of life.” All are agreed that the words, “laver of water,” refer to the Sacrament of Baptism. But it is disputed, what the words, “in the word of life,” or, as in the Greek, simply, ἐν ρηματι, in the word, mean. Some refer them to the form of Baptism,—I baptize thee in the name of the Father, &c., the matter of the sacrament having been expressed in the words, “laver of water.” Others understand them of the word of the gospel as believed by faith, which is the first disposition for cleansing from sin, and for justification in an adult. According to this opinion, the Apostle assigns the efficient and disposing causes of our justification. And in the Epistle of St. James 1:18, we find that “the word of truth,” is principally referred to, as the cause of our regeneration, which may mean, either the word of the sacrament, or the word believed by faith—faith being the first disposition for justification in an adult. Without faith, Baptism could not profit an adult endowed with reason. This latter opinion seems preferable.

Eph 5:27. In order also to present her to himself a glorious Church, gifted with glory and beauty, perfectly exempt from the stain of sin, or wrinkle of age, or any other such deformity; so that she should be holy and free from guilt.

“That he might present it.” “It,” is wanting in the chief MSS., which support the Vulgate, “ut exhiberet sibi gloriosam Ecclesiam” &c. When is the Church to be thus “glorious?” Some understand it of the Church after the Resurrection; others, of her even in this life; and then all this exemption from sin and imperfection is to be understood of her in the same sense, in which sanctity is applied to her by Divines, as one of the distinctive notes or marks of her divine commission—viz., in her head, doctrine, sacraments, and the multitude of her children in every age. This latter opinion is rendered probable by the allusion, which the Apostle appears to make to the marriage engagement, when the husband takes care that the spouse be freed from these imperfections from which Christ freed His Church, before His espousal with her; and, it is more consistent with our ideas, that the espousals of Christ with His Church have already taken place, although it is only at the Resurrection, on the last day, that these espousals shall be consummated.

Eph 5:28. Another motive also, besides the example of Christ in loving his Church, for men to love their wives, is, that the wife and husband are but one flesh: hence, the husbands should love their wives, as their own bodies, for, he that loves his wife, loves himself, since he is one with her.

In the Vulgate version, this verse would appear to contain not so much a new motive for men to love their wives, as an application of the former one, contained in verse 25, viz., that as Christ loved his Church, as being a part of him, so, in like manner, ought men love their wives for the same reason. The common Greek reading omits the word “also,” (although it is found in the chief MSS.), and it would appear to contain a new motive for loving their wives, which seems more probable from what follows. For, in the motive referred to, verse 25, Christ is represented more in the light of a head and benefactor to his Church—in which respect, he is the model of the good husband—than as forming part of the mystic body. The new motive adduced here is grounded on the nature of the conjugal union, in the consummation of which man and wife are made one flesh. Hence, by loving his wife, a man loves himself; and the Apostle, in the following verses, undertakes to show that the Church is a part of Christ, thereby showing the propriety of the comparison of the man and wife with Christ and his Church, under this respect.

Eph 5:29. This motive is conformable to the dictates of right reason; for no one following the dictates of right reason, ever hates his flesh; on the contrary, such a person has a proper love for it—he nourishes and cherishes it; so should the husband treat his wife, as Christ nourishes and cherishes his Church.

The act of suicide is not opposed to this; because here, there is question of men who act conformably to the dictates of right reason. Nor is voluntary mortification opposed to it, for the same reason; since the love which reason and religion dictate to us towards our bodies, prescribes mortification and austerities.

Eph 5:30. For, we who form the Church are members of his body—we were spiritually formed from his flesh and bones, when sleeping on the cross, as Eve was formed from the side of Adam.

Having asserted that a man ought to love his wife as forming a part of him, as Christ loved his Church, the Apostle proceeds to show in this verse, the grounds of the comparison, so far as Christ and his Church are concerned—that is to say, he wishes to show that the Church is a part of Christ. The words of this verse contain an allusion to the words of Moses in the Book of Genesis, relative to the creation of the first woman, upon beholding whom, Adam cried out, under the influence of inspiration—Genesis 2:23—“This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” St. Paul in this verse makes allusion to that passage, as if to show us, that the union between us and Christ is as intimate, as that between the first man and woman.

But, should it not rather be said, that Christ is of our flesh and our bones; since, it was He that assumed our nature, and not we, His?

It is to be borne in mind, that when there is question of Christ and his Church, there is question of merely a mystical body; and Christ being the great source of the spiritual life and animation of that body, is, therefore, said to be its head, as also because he governs and protects it. And we are said to be His members, and of His flesh, because we derive our spiritual life, and the privilege of being members of the Church, from Him. Again, the assertion is verified in the opinion of the Holy Fathers, who say that the Church was formed out of the side of Christ on the cross, as Eve was out of the side of Adam sunk in profound sleep.

Eph 5:31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.

Having indirectly alluded to the passage of Genesis, or perhaps quoted in a mystical signification, the Apostle proceeds to quote expressly and more largely from the same passage (Genesis 2:24)—“For this cause,” &c. These are the words of Moses, or of Adam, under the influence of inspiration. In either case, they are the words of God. Some Commentators say, that in this verse is contained a new reason for men to love their wives, grounded on the authority of Scripture, in which a man is commanded to love his wife in preference to father or mother, &c. This is the interpretation of Piconio, in his Triplex Expositio. It seems, however, more probable, that this verse does not contain a new motive for men to love their wives; that the object of the Apostle, in quoting at full length this text from the book of Genesis is rather, to develope and explain more fully the motive proposed (verse 28) by showing, as he does, in the next verse—

Eph 5:32. In the foregoing words, is contained a mystical allusion to some great event, which I understand of the mystic and indissoluble union of Christ with his Church.

That the union between man and wife directly referred to in Genesis, was a type of the mystic and indissoluble union between Christ and his Church; for, not only are the words, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” alluded to in verse 30, mystically verified in the union of Christ with his Church; but the following words also, “for this cause shall a man,” &c., have a typical reference to Christ and his Church. As man leaves his father and mother, and adheres to his wife; so, Christ left his Father’s kingdom, and his mother, the Synagogue, and espoused the Church. Of course, the words, “leaving his Father and mother” in reference to Christ, are spoken in allusion to human ideas, in the same way, as we say of him, that he descended from heaven, although he remained there continually. “This is a great sacrament.” (In Greek, τὸ μυστὴριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστὶν, this mystery is great.) “But I speak in Christ and in the Church.” (In the Greek, Χριστον και τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, unto Christ and the Church). In the interpretation now given, this passage by no means furnishes a proof, that Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the New Law, which we know it to be, from the unerring principles of the Catholic faith.—Concil. Trid. SS. xxiv., Can. 1. Because, this verse does not convey any new reason why men should love their wives; it only expresses an observation which the Apostle makes, corroborative of his reasoning in the preceding verses, to the effect, that the words of verse 31, besides their original reference to marriage, contain a typical meaning, which the Apostle refers to Christ and his Church. Moreover, the words of his text would prove equally that all marriages from the beginning of the world were sacraments of the New Law; because the words, “This is a great sacrament,” have reference to “a man’s leaving father and mother, and cleaving to his wife,” on account of her being “bone of his bone,” &c.; but, it was equally true of all marriages from creation, that the wife was “bone of his bones,” &c. Nor is there any restriction made in the words, “in Christ and in the Church,” to Christian marriages; for, the Greek clearly shows that these words only mean, that Christ and his Church were merely the term of this mysterious type, expressed in all marriages since creation. Nor is there any force in the observation of some—viz., that grace is required for this love between husbands and wives, as it must be supernatural, to resemble the love of Christ for his Church.—Esto. But must that grace be sacramental grace? Does not the servant want grace to obey his master, and the child to obey his parents? Is not grace necessary for the several duties here inculcated?—(chapter 6). And is such grace to come from a peculiar sacramental rite? Since, then, we have another vehicle of divine revelation through which truths of faith are transmitted to us with as much certainty, as they are through the SS. Scriptures—viz., Tradition, why adduce a dubious passage, at best, like the present, in proof of a dogma of faith, which is clearly proved, without doubt or cavil, from Tradition?

Eph 5:33. But although the words, in their mystical signification, principally regard Christ and his Church, do you fulfil them literally; let each husband love his wife as himself, and let the wife reverence her husband, as the Church reverences Christ.

From this verse, it is clear, that the preceding words are to be understood mystically; for, the Apostle says, that be the mystic inference drawn from the preceding words what it may, still, the husbands should love their wives as themselves, and literally fulfil the words of God in the book of Genesis: “For this cause a man shall leave … and cleave to his wife,” &c. Or, it might be said, that the Apostle, after having referred to the book of Genesis, and deduced a mystical inference from the words which he quotes from it, now resumes the reason for loving their wives, introduced in verse 28, and applies it to the Ephesians.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 5, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle commences the moral part of the Epistle. He inculcates union and concord, and in order to persuade the Ephesians to attend to his admonitions in this matter, he reminds them of his sufferings on their account. Furthermore, with a view to secure this necessary and important branch of concord and union, he recounts the several relations of unity in which they were already identified (Eph 4:1–7).

Seeing that the unequal distribution of spiritual gifts might be an obstacle to this union of soul, the Apostle obviates this by showing, that these gifts were bestowed not according to the merits of those favoured with them, but gratuitously, according to the will of Christ (Eph 4:7). This he shows from Psalm 68.—and turning aside from his subject, he proves from the prophetic quotation the divinity and eternal generation of Christ against the heretics of the day (Eph 4:8–10).

Returning to the subject from which he had digressed at verse 8, he points out the different gifts and offices (Eph 4:12), their duration to the end of the world (Eph 4:13). He more clearly points out the ends to be obtained by the institution of the ministry in the Church, and the gifts conferred on her, which are unity of faith, and an increase of Christian virtue and knowledge (Eph 4:14-15). He illustrates this increase of Christian virtue in the mystical body of the Church, by the example of the natural increase of the human body (Eph 4:16).

Resuming the subject of exhortation with which he commenced (verse 1), he conjures them to lead lives different from those of the unconverted Gentiles, of whom he draws a most frightful picture. He represents their interior state or the dispositions of their souls, which comprise vanity of thought, blindness of intellect, obduracy of will (Eph 4:17-18). He next describes the exterior fruits of these corrupt passions of heart, their insatiable impurities of every description (Eph 4:19). The life of Christians is all contrary to this (Eph 4:20-21). A truly Christian conduct consists in two things—in putting off the old man, and putting on the new (Eph 4:22–24). He specifies a few of the deeds of the old man, which are, vices of the tongue (Eph 4:25), passions of the heart, especially those of the irascible appetite (Eph 4:26), deeds committed by the hands (Eph 4:27-28). He dwells on the vices of the tongue, and recommends the language of edification. He particularizes the faults of the tongue, and finally recommends the language of kindness and charity.

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Eph 4:1. Since, therefore, God in his infinite goodness has conferred on you so many blessings and privileges in calling you to the faith, I, Paul, who am in chains for having announced the Gospel to you, exhort and beseech you to lead a life becoming the exalted dignity to which you have been raised.

“A prisoner in the Lord,” means the same as “prisoner of Jesus Christ.”—(3:1).

Eph 4:2. Manifesting an humble opinion of yourselves in your dealing towards all, together with the spirit of meekness opposed to anger; exercising also a spirit of long-suffering and forbearance, in regard to the defects of others, how disagreeable soever; and this, from a principle of charity, or, the love of our neighbour.

“With all humility.” Shunning every appearance of arrogance. “With patience,” in Greek, μακροθνμιας, long-suffering, the virtue, which is slow to anger. “In charity, patiently bearing the insults offered to us, and slow in resenting them, not from natural or prudential motives, but from a motive of charity.”

Eph 4:3. Be particularly zealous in preserving true concord of heart and union of soul, making the spirit of peace the bond by which this union of soul is effected.

“In the bond of peace.” The practice of the spirit of peace is the tie, or chain that will closely bind together this concord of mind and union of heart.

Eph 4:4. (Unity pervades your entire religious system). You are members of the one body of the Church: you have one vivifying spirit, the Holy Ghost, which animates the Church; you have but one object of Christian hope and of future enjoyment.

In this and the two following verses, are enumerated the several relations of unity in which they were closely bound together, and this is done with a view of supplying the most powerful motive for union of heart and soul (as in Paraphrase, verse 6). “One body,” i.e., the body of the Church, of which Christ is head. “One Spirit,” the Holy Ghost that animates the Church. Some Commentators, and among the rest Estius, interpret the verse thus:—As you are one body, so you ought to be also one Spirit. But, the construction in Paraphrase is preferable; because, in this entire passage, the Apostle is enumerating the different points in which their religion unites them. “As you are called in one hope,” &c. There is unity in the object of your Christian hope.

Eph 4:5. You have all one and the same Lord, Jesus Christ, who by purchase and in right of redemption, has a special claim on you; you all believe one and the same thing; you have but one baptism, the gate through which you entered the Church.

“One faith.” The objects of Christian faith are the same for all, although the mode of believing them may be different; in some articles, explicit faith is absolutely necessary; in other points, implicit faith contained in the general belief of whatever the Church teaches, is sufficient. “One baptism,” whereby we are regenerated and admitted to heirship, as sons of God.

Eph 4:6. You all worship the same God—who requires unanimous worshippers—the same common Father, who requires in his sons the concord of brethren, whose dominion is over all—whose Providence extends to all—and whose spirit dwells and acts in all. (From all this the conclusion, therefore, is, that as you are already united under so many relations, you should not fail in the most important branch of unity now inculcated, viz., union and concord of heart and soul).

“One God and Father of all,” refers to the entire Trinity, and the following attributes are by appropriation applied to the different Persons; “above all,” to the Father, who, as first source and principle, has a lofty dominion over all things; “through all,” to the Son, “by whom all things were made” (John 1:3); and “in us all,” to the Holy Ghost. In the ordinary Greek copies, we have, και εν πασιν ὐμιν, “and in you all.” Critics generally prefer the Vulgate. In the Codex Vaticanus, it is δια παντων εν πασιν, “through all in all,” και, and ὐμιν, are omitted. Others understand each quality to refer to each of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. “Above all,” by dominion and authority; “through all,” by Providence; and “in all,” by immensity and inhabitation.

The words, “one faith,” warrant the conclusion, that the members of the Church cannot have different creeds. For, St. Paul addresses the Ephesians as members of the Church—“One body”—and of them, as such, he says, they can have but “one faith;” which would certainly be untrue, if the members of the Church could have different creeds. Hence, the oneness or unity of faith is such as to exclude heretics from the unity of the Church, their creed being different from that professed by the true Church. Moreover, the unity of their faith is proposed by the Apostle to the Ephesians, and, of course, to all Christians, as the model of the unity of spirit, which he is inculcating (verse 3). Now, if their unity of spirit were to resemble the unity of faith between heretics and Catholics, instead of being concord, would it not be the very essence of discord? Possibly, it may be said in reply, that the unity of baptism, which is referred to by the Apostle, “one baptism,” does not prevent the validity of baptism in an heretical communion. But, there is a very wide disparity between baptism and faith in this respect; because, the profession of heresy is not directly opposed to the administration of baptism, or destructive of its efficacy—all the essential requisites for the sacrament may be found among heretics—whereas, the very nature of faith excludes heresy; heresy is directly opposed to, and destructive of, the virtue of faith; since it is only by positively rejecting some point of faith admitted and defined by the Church, or by pertinaciously maintaining some error rejected and condemned by Her, a man becomes a heretic. The only case that would furnish even the appearance of a parity, would be the case of a heresy regarding the essentials of baptism; this should, moreover, be reduced to act in the defective mode of administering baptism. But even in this case, there would not be a perfect parity, because even if such a heresy were carried out in practice, there would be no baptism. But, every heresy has not baptism for object; and, hence, not even an apparent parity. From the very idea, and the very nature of heresy, a man professing it, cannot have the same faith with a member of the Church, from whose belief the heretic dissents. It matters not whether the doctrine denied be fundamental or non-fundamental, since any difference in faith, fundamental or otherwise, would be an improper model of that unity of spirit which the Apostle so strongly inculcates in this passage.

Eph 4:7. It is true, the gifts of grace are unequally distributed; but this should be no obstacle to unity and peace, since these are gratuitous gifts, given not in proportion to our merits, but according to the measure in which Christ thinks fit to bestow them.

The Apostle in this verse obviates a practical difficulty, which might present itself to the minds of the Ephesians against this unity of spirit, arising from the unequal distribution of spiritual gifts. These gifts, he says, are gratuitously given by Christ, solely as he pleases and thinks proper to bestow them; and hence, as his object in conferring them was to beget unanimity; their gratuitousness, which was independent of the merits of any one, should engender feelings of gratitude rather than of envy. The Apostle afterwards shows from the analogy of the natural body, the different members of which could not be alike, that in the mystical or moral body of the Church, this very difference of functions and offices should be a source of unity. The latter idea, which is merely alluded to here, is fully developed in 1 Cor 12:14-27.

Eph 4:8. It is with a view of marking this unequal distribution of gifts, the royal Psalmist says of Christ (Psalm 64): Ascending on high he led with him the souls of the just hitherto detained as captives in the prison of Limbo, and he distributed the gifts which he received for the purpose of bestowing them on men.

In this verse, the Apostle proceeds to show that these gifts were gratuitously given by Christ. The quotation from Psalm 64, in which the words are read in the second person, “thou hast ascended on high,” &c., is understood by many to refer, in its primary and literal signification, to the temporal triumph of the Jews over their enemies. But in its mystical signification—the signification principally intended by the Holy Ghost—it refers to the Ascension of our blessed Lord, who, ascending on high, “led captivity captive,” which in the Psalm is read thus: “thou hast taken captivity,” and may either mean, that he captured his enemies, the devils, who were before the captors of others, or, as it is commonly understood after St. Jerome, that he has taken with him, as the fruits of his victory over his enemies, and as trophies to grace his triumph, the souls of the Patriarchs and just of old detained in the prison of Limbo. This, besides being the more common interpretation of the words, is the interpretation which acccords best with the ideas of a triumph, to which he here makes allusion. “He gave gifts to men.” In the Hebrew it is read thus: thou hast received gifts in men. But the word, in, often bears the meaning of, for. “Thou hast received gifts for,” that is, to be given, to men. And then, the Apostle, for the sake of clearness, employs “gave,” instead of “received,” because he received them, to be given, to men (as is expressed in Paraphrase).

Eph 4:9. But by saying that Christ ascended into heaven, does he not tacitly insinuate and leave us to infer, that he had before descended, and even as far as the lowest parts of the earth?

Instead of proceeding to enumerate the gifts conferred by Christ on his Church, the Apostle turns on the heretics of the day, the Ebionites, Simonians, &c., who denied that Christ existed before his birth of the Virgin Mary, and he infers from the words “ascending on high,” that Christ must have descended from heaven.

But how could it be inferred from his ascending, that he must have descended from heaven? It is only on the supposition that the Messiah referred to by David was from heaven; this the Jews themselves did not doubt; for, they maintained, that the original abode of the Messiah was in heaven. In this supposition, he must have descended in order to ascend; or, perhaps, it should rather have been said, that the inference of the Apostle supposes the divine nature of Christ, who must have descended, in order to ascend into heaven. Of course, when we say, that Christ ascends or descends, we adopt language conformable to human ideas. His Divinity did not leave one place for another, he descended, by assuming human nature with a personal union on earth, while he ascended, in this nature which he assumed. “Into the lower parts of the earth,” is generally understood of the Limbus Patrum, or, the resting place of the ancient Saints, into which it was predicted that Christ would descend. “I will penetrate all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep (Ecclesiasticus 24:43), and into this we know from St. Peter (1st Epistle, chapter 3), he had descended. The reasoning and deduction of the Apostle require merely that he had descended on earth, in the centre of which Limbo was situated. But he even makes mention of his descent into the lowest part of the earth, to show the fruit of this excessive humiliation, in his being elevated to the highest heavens, and to show us more clearly how “he filled all things,” (verse 10).

Eph 4:10. And he who descended into the lowest parts of the earth is the very same that ascended into the highest and most exalted heaven, where he now sits, so as to fill all places from the highest heaven to the lowest parts with his majesty and glory, or, all persons with his gifts and graces.

It is the same person, who descended by assuming human nature, that ascended in the same nature. “Above all the heavens.” The words are differently explained. It is better to understand them to mean the highest heaven, in the most elevated and dignified part of which, Christ sits enthroned. For, we know that Christ, in his natural state, is in heaven and not outside it.—(Acts 3:21; Philippians 3:20; Heb. 8.) “That he might fill all things,” ἲνα πληρώση τα παντα, Vulgate, ut impleret omnia, means either all places, or all persons (vide Paraphrase), or, might fulfil all things written concerning him.

Eph 4:11. To resume the subject digressed from at verse (8), Christ, I said, has distributed different gifts and offices in his Church according to his good will and pleasure; for, he gave to his Church, some to be Apostles; others, to be prophets; others, to be Evangelists; others, to be pastors and doctors.

He here resumes the subject from which he had digressed at verse 8, and enumerates the different offices instituted in the Church, and the different gratuitous gifts, with which Christ favoured her. “Apostles;” the first and most exalted office in the Church.—(See Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:1). “Some prophets.” By these “prophets” of the New Law, are meant those, who were gifted with supernatural lights in expounding the abstruse passages of SS. Scripture, and of the ancient prophecies. To some of them was also imparted the gift of foretelling future events (v.g.), Agabus. St. Ambrose tells us, that this office is now filled by the expositors of the SS. Scripture, and by the preachers of the Word. “Others, Evangelists.” The word “Evangelist,” in its original signification, refers to the inspired penman who wrote the life of our Divine Redeemer, in the four Gospels. But here, if we look to the place assigned to it, after the “Prophets,” it refers to the preachers of the Gospel. In this sense, Philip is called an Evangelist, in the 21st chapter of the Acts, although he never wrote a Gospel, and St. Paul, writing to Timothy (2 Tim 4), tells him, “do the work of an Evangelist.” This office is still fulfilled in the Church by the missionaries, who carry the Gospel to foreign climes. “And other pastors and teachers.” This refers to those holding jurisdiction in the Church, particularly to bishops, who are to be at the same time doctors as well as pastors; St. Paul unites both offices, as both ought to be inseparably connected.

Eph 4:12. The end or object of this external institution was, “for the work of the ministry,” that each one might zealously discharge his own individual function, which could not be easily effected if one person were charged with all; “for the edification of the body of Christ,” that this faithful discharge of individual functions might advance the spiritual good of the Church; “for the perfecting of the saints,” so that by this spiritual advancement of the Church, the saints, or rather the Church of the saints, might reach that full perfection, in the knowledge of faith and practice of morality, which it can attain in this life.

He here points out the end or object of the institution of this ministry. The order of the words should be transposed (as in Paraphrase), placing “the perfecting of the saints,” last. The very nature of the matter in question, the order of duties and results, require this. Because the “work of the ministry” precedes the “edification of the body of Christ,” i.e., of the Church, and from this latter, follows “the perfecting of the saints.” Moreover, the particle, προς, prefixed in the Greek to the word “perfecting,” shows it to be the end and final cause of the rest. Every minister of the Gospel should frequently call to mind the end of the institution of the sacred ministry, viz., the edification of the Church. All his actions should tend to promote this great object. Woe to him, if, through neglect of positive scandal, he be the guilty instrument of ruining those souls, for which God has shed the last drop of his sacred blood! Judicium durissimum his qui præsunt.

Eph 4:13. The duration of this ministry—unto the end of the world; that is to say, unto that period when we all, who are destined for the true Church, being united in the belief of the same faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God, shall, by our gradual association to her, have arrived at that state of perfection or plenitude of the Church, similar to the perfection of a full-grown man; when after the last of the faithful is aggregated to her, Christ shall have attained, in his mystical body, a degree of plenitude and completion analogous to the state of perfection which his natural body had attained at his death.

The Apostle points out the duration of these functions, to the end of the world. “Unto a perfect man,” i.e., when we shall have arrived at that period of full manhood in the Church, similar to the perfection of a full-grown man, which is more fully explained in the following words, “unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.” in which is instituted a comparison between the perfect proportions of Christ’s natural body at his death, and the perfection which his mystical body shall attain at the end of the world. The perfection in Christ’s mystical body shall not take place until the last of the faithful is associated to the Church, that is to say, until the end of the world. This interpretation, the substance of which is given in A’Lapide, and briefly alluded to by Estius, seems the most probable and the most natural interpretation of the passage. The Church is compared to a “perfect” or full-grown “man,” in the same way, that it is often compared to an edifice, or building, &c. “Upon the measure of the age,” εἰς μετρον ἡλικίας του πληρώματος τοῦ Χρἰστοῦ, may signify, unto the measure of the size (or stature) of the fulness of Christ, or, unto the measure of the stature of Christ. It is deserving of remark, how frequently the Apostle uses the word, plerōma, in this Epistle, in allusion to the false system of the Gnostics. Others, by “perfect man,” understand, until we became perfect spiritual men, and arrive at the measure and age, in which Christ may be fully formed in us. The former interpretation seems, however, preferable.

Eph 4:14. These ministers he has given to the Church unto the end of time, that we may no longer resemble children, whose ideas are fickle and inconstant, fluctuating between different opinions, and carried about with false and changing novelties of error owing to the cunning and deceitful trickery of perverse men, who craftily endeavour to circumvent and lead us astray.

“Carried about with every wind of doctrine,” i.e., with the false and varying doctrines of heretics, ever changing and unsettled. “Wickedness,” the Greek word, κυβείᾳ, denotes the throw of dice, and contains an allusion to the cheating and fraudulent conduct of gamblers.

From this entire passage is furnished the clearest proof of the existence of an external authority in the Church. For the office of Apostles, &c. (verse 11), must be exercised externally—an authority which is to last to the end of time (13), an authority gifted with infallibility, since, it could not otherwise attain the end of its institution (14), that is to say, it could not protect us against the wiles of deceitful men, who, with the nicest subtlety, assail the truth and endeavour to lead men after them into error—an authority armed and vested with summary power, for the same reason; otherwise, it could not prevent the growth of error. The very circumstance of these gifts and offices being instituted for a public end, the good of the entire body of the Church, should prevent jealousy on the part of the members of the Church not favoured with them, and pride on the part of those who are; since they have received them for the service of the faithful at large. (For a singularly able dissertation on the Infallibility of the Church, see Murray’s [Very Rev. Dr.] Reply to Whately, Annual Miscellany, vol. iii.)

Eph 4:15. But, reducing to practice, by charity, what we believe to be true in faith, we may reach a full increase and a perfect spiritual growth through Christ, who is our head.

“But doing the truth,” &c., i.e., believing in the true doctrines of faith, and practising its precepts, we may reach a full spiritual increase in Christ, &c. By faith and good works, the Church and all its members are perfected, and by charity, a special value is imparted to our actions.

Eph 4:16. From whom the entire body (compactly and fitly joined together by the joints which administer life and spiritual graces), maketh an increase of itself, owing to the efficacious operation of this head, which extends its animating influence to each individual member according to its exigency and the place which it holds in the body, so as to edify and perfect itself through charity.

Having mentioned the head, Christ, the Apostle now proceeds to point out the influence which Christ, as head, exerts on the members of his body, the Church “From whom the whole body … maketh increase of the body,” i.e., of itself. For the word “body” is repeated a second time, by a Hebrew idiom. “Of every part,” ἑκάστοῦ μερους. The Alexandrian and another chief MS. have ἑκαστοῦ μελους, “of each member,” uniuscujusque membri,—Vulgate. By a description of the union that exists between the component members of the natural body, the Apostle instructs us in the necessity of the union that should exist between the members of the mystic body of Christ. The head of the body of the Church is Christ; its members, the faithful; its joints through which are communicated life and support, are the members of religion, the prelates and pastors; its soul is charity. And as, in the natural body, the members are connected with the head by means of joints, ligaments, &c., and thus the influence of the head extends to them; so, in like manner, is the Church connected with Christ. And as, in the natural body, the different members receive a proportionate share of support, so does it likewise happen in the Church; different graces and offices are bestowed on different persons, according to their fitness and necessity for the entire body. The unequal distribution, then, of these gifts, far from producing divisions, should, on the contrary, tend to union. Since all these gratiæ gratis datæ were given to the different members for the good of the entire body, each one receives whatever grace or office may be necessary for the position which God wishes him to hold in the Church.

According to the description given, does it not follow, that sinners are not in the Church?

Answer.—The Apostle describes the Church according to the more excellent part to which alone he wishes the Ephesians to belong, and the relations and functions of which alone he describes. Sinners, although they have not the spirit of Christ dwelling in them, still, receive grace from his spirit, and are united to his body, as dead members, by the less perfect bond of faith, without charity.

Eph 4:17. This, therefore, is what I had been saying (verse 1), and what I now exhort and implore you to do, in the name of the Lord, whom I call to witness this my exhortation, henceforward not to lead the lives of the unconverted Gentiles, who follow the vain, foolish, and erroneous judgments of their minds.

The Apostle here resumes the subject of moral exhortation, with which he commences this chapter. “As the Gentiles walk.” (In the ordinary Greek τὰ λοιπὰ ἐθνη, the other Gentiles; λοιπα, is wanting in the chief MSS.) They follow the vain judgments of their minds. The error in judgment is the source of their manifold practical immoralities.

Eph 4:18. Who have their intellects clouded by the mists and darkness of error, alienated and far removed from that holy life which is prescribed by the law of God; and this owing to the ignorance which is in them, and which is caused by the blindness and hardness of heart into which they are permitted to fall in punishment of their numerous transgressions,
Eph 4:19. Who, devoid of the hope of future blessings, which we possess, have delivered themselves up to impurity so as to perpetrate all kinds of abominable uncleanness with a greediness and avidity never to be satiated.

(18) “Having their understanding darkened.” In the Greek it is, εσκοτωμενοι τη διανοια οντες, being darkened in their understanding. “Alienated from the life of God,” i.e., the life of sanctity, which the law of God prescribes. “Through the ignorance that is in them.” Though the Gentiles had much knowledge regarding God, and his attributes; still, owing to their pride and ingratitude, they were abandoned by God, and they grew foolish in their thoughts. “Their foolish hearts were darkened, and they were given over to a reprobate sense” (Rom. 1:1), which is also expressed hereby the words, “because of the blindness of their hearts.” This blindness of heart was a judgment of God, in punishment of their crimes and ingratitude to him.

Blindness of intellect and hardness of heart produce despair (19). These Gentiles not believing in the sanction of a future life, have no hopes of future blessings. “Who, despairing”; for this the Greek has, οἴτινες ἀπηλγηκοτες, who, having lost all feeling, i.e., all sense of shame or remorse of conscience for their sins, all notions of right or wrong. St. Jerome explains the Greek word to mean, destitute of sorrow or remorse for passed sins. “Unto covetousness.” The Greek word for “covetousness,” πλεονεξια, means an insatiable desire of anything, such as riches, pleasures, honours, &c. Here, it more probably signifies the insatiable avidity for the gratification of impure desires.

From this sad picture, which the Apostle draws of a corrupt Pagan life, we can clearly perceive, that blindness of intellect produces hardness and corruption of heart; from this results a state of remorseless insensibility in regard to the most shameful deeds, so as to make man perfectly resemble the brute. How many are to be found among Christians, whose lives are more corrupt than those of the unconverted Gentiles, to whom St. Paul here refers. How rarely do we, with due feelings of gratitude, consider the gratuitous goodness of God in rescuing us from this deplorable state in which he has left millions of our fellow-creatures.

Eph 4:20. But you have not been thus taught in the school of Christ, or, taught so in Christianity, as to feel yourselves warranted in following such abominable practices.
Eph 4:21. Since indeed you have heard his doctrine and have been taught by him through me, his Apostle, the truth as it really is in Christ Jesus, or, as Christ Jesus himself has made it known to me by his divine revelation.

“If so be that you heard him.” The words, “if so,” in Greek, ειγε, are susseptible of an affirmative signification (as in Paraphrase). Others understand them, as in our version, to imply a doubt; thus: if, however, you have understood the truth, as it was really in him: these say that the Apostle refers to the false teaching of some heretics, who attempted to corrupt the faith of the Ephesians after his own departure. The former meaning is adopted in the Paraphrase; you have been taught the truth as it has been revealed to me by Jesus Christ himself.

Eph 4:22. This is what you have been taught, to lay aside the carnal corruption or old man inherited from Adam, with the dictates of which you complied in your past lives, before embracing the faith, and which becomes every day more and more corrupted by following these deceitful desires, that promise gratification, and end in remorse and bitter disappointment.

“To put off, &c. The words, “have been taught,” are understood from the preceding verse; others connect this verse with verse 17. “This then I say … to put off the old man,” &c. By the “old man” is meant the sinfulness and corruption which we inherit from Adam, or rather, man considered as affected by his sinfulness. He says, “put off,” in allusion to the rite of baptism, at which the clothes were laid aside, an emblem of their putting off the sinfulness of their nature. “Who is corrupted,” i.e., progresses more and more in corruption, and renders us more like the brute, according as the sinful desires are indulged.

Eph 4:23. You have been taught to be renewed spiritually in your interior man by the grace of the Holy Ghost infused into your hearts.

“Be renewed;” in the Greek it is, ανανεοῦσθαι, to be renewed, i.e., you have been taught to be renewed, to receive a renewed spiritual being and existence.

Eph 4:24. And you have been taught to be transformed into new men, like persons who receive a new existence, a new creation, conformable to the will and law of God, in true justice and sanctity.

“And put on;” in Greek, ἐνδύσασθαι, to put on, i.e., you have been taught to put on the new man, “who according to God,” &c. By the “new man,” some understand, Christ; others, Adam, newly created in original justice and innocence. It is better, however, to understand it of the spiritual man after his renovation by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and after receiving a new existence by spiritual regeneration; hence, said to be “created.” “In justice and holiness of truth,” i.e., in true justice and sanctity. “Justice,” has a reference to the fulfilment of the obligations and relations which we owe our neighbour: “holiness,” to the brightness and purity of soul caused by the infusion of sanctifying grace, thereby rendering us pleasing in the sight of God. This passage furnishes a most convincing refutation of the heretical doctrine regarding external and imputative justice; for, the justified man is here described as receiving a new spiritual existence, as gifted with true justice and sanctity. How could a man merely reputed just by God, but really unjust, be said to be “created in true justice and sanctity”?

Eph 4:25. Since, therefore, you have been thus taught in the school of Christ to put off the old man and put on the new; laying aside all lying and fraud, speak the truth and practise candour and sincerity in your dealings with one another; for we all are members of the same mystic body, and hence bound to avoid all deceive towards one another, to relieve and help one another after the example set by the members of the natural body towards each other.

The Apostle here specifies a few of the deeds of this man of corruption. “For we are members one of another,” &c. As in the natural body, the different members, far from deceiving, on the contrary, help and relieve each other, the eye does not deceive or injure the foot, nor the hand, the eye; so ought it happen also in the mystical body of Christ.

Eph 4:26. If you conceive hasty, precipitate feelings of anger, take care not to sin in this, by consenting to those thoughts and by wishing to carry them into execution; and lay aside those feelings as quickly as possible, so that the sun may not go down upon your anger.

These words, taken from Psalm 4:5, are said by some to refer immediately to the enemies of God’s people in general, whom David exhorts, not to fulfil the thoughts which anger would suggest. They are here directed by St. Paul to all Christians. There is no contradiction between the words, “be angry,” and “let not the sun go down upon your anger;” because the former phrase is purely conditional. “If you be angry.” It serves as an example of what are termed, permissive Imperatives. “Let not the sun go down,” &c., is a Hebrew proverb, signifying that a thing should not be of long continuance. The day began at sunset, with the Hebrews; what, then, is prescribed is, that anger should not be prolonged until next day, sunset being the beginning of Jewish festival days.

Eph 4:27. Do not, by indulging in these feelings of angry excitement, give the devil a place in your hearts.

The devil particularly insinuates himself into the souls of men by the passion of anger; he uses enmities and desires of revenge constantly to destroy human souls. In the preceding verses, the Apostle cautioned them against the vices of the tongue. In this verse, he passes to the sins committed in the heart, viz., desire of revenge, &c.

Eph 4:28. Let the man who practised stealth, discontinue in future such a wicked course, by desisting from further acts of rapine and by making restitution for the past; let him labour in some honest and lawful employment, so as not only to procure sustenance for himself, but also to have wherewith to relieve the wants of the indigent, and thus make reparation for past acts of injustice.

He now treats of the deeds of wicknedness committed by the hands. “He that stole.” Stealing is put down for all kinds of fraud and unjust acquisition. Theft and injustice of every kind may be discontinued in two ways:—firstly, by desisting in future from all deeds of injustice; and, secondly, by making restitution for the property unjustly retained, because the unjust detention of our neighbour’s property is a continued act of robbery.

Eph 4:29. Let no language, whether obscene or in any other respect faulty, proceed from your mouth, but only proper language, spoken with such a regard to circumstances, as to promote edification, and advance the hearers in grace and faith.

“Let no evil speech,” &c. Some understand this of obscene language. It is better, however, understand it of improper language of every description, of all vices of the tongue, since it is contrasted with the language which contributes to edification. Let whatever discourse we utter be good in itself, useful for edification, i.e., let this good language be spoken in proper circumstances, suited to the times and persons, &c. The Greek for “edification of faith,” is, προς οἰκοδαμὴν τῆς χρείας, “to the edification of utility” which means, useful for edification, the noun, utility, being employed for the adjective, useful, a thing not unusual with the Apostle. St. Jerome reads edificationem “opportunitatis,” “edification of opportunity”; the ancient Vulgate had, of faith, a reading, too, which is supported by some of the best manuscripts. “That it may minister grace to the hearers,” is interpreted by some thus: that it may prove agreeable and acceptable to the hearers, in consequence of being uttered seasonably, and in due circumstances.

Eph 4:30. And do not, by indulging in the vices already referred to, particularly those of the tongue, contristate the Holy Ghost, by banishing him from the abode of your heart, in which he wishes to dwell; by whom you have been sealed, in the abundant effusion of sanctifying grace, unto the day of the final resurrection, when, after your bodies shall have been glorified, and freed from all evils, you shall put on immortal glory.

The Holy Ghost is said to be “grieved” by being banished from our hearts, as a man is said to be saddened by being expelled from an abode in which he wished to dwell. “Sealed,” by the abundance of sanctifying grace, which is a spiritual seal of the beloved soul, by which it is marked out as belonging to God. The Apostle probably refers to the sacramental grace received in baptism and confirmation.—(See 2 Tim. 1:6). As, therefore, the seal of God is impressed on the soul, this seal should be inviolable, and should not be broken without the authority of him who impressed it. He, then, breaks and violates this seal, whoever he be, that utters obscene words, with lips that were holy and sanctified by divine grace. “Unto the day of redemption,” i.e., of the glorious resurrection of our bodies, when we shall be emancipated from the slavery of corruption.

Eph 4:31. Let all aversion and embittered feelings towards your neighbour, all angry excitement, all desires of revenge, all loud threatenings and brawling expression of inward rage, all injurious and insulting language, with every fault of this description, i.e., evil acts or dispositions towards your neighbour, be put away from you.

“Let all bitterness:” aversion, arising from our brooding over the provocation received, is the beginning of anger. “Anger,” that excited state of feeling resulting from the injuries we conceived to be inflicted on us. “Indignation,” that passionate, fixed desire of revenge. “Clamour,” all loud threatenings, &c. “Blasphemy,” is generally understood of language injurious to God, but it is also understood of injurious language used towards men. “With all malice,” regards all vices by which our neighbour is injured. These he omits enumerating, and comprehends under the general term “malice.”

Eph 4:32. But in order the more perfectly to subdue these evil propensities of our corrupt nature, practice the opposite virtues. Be courteous and obliging towards one another, have compassion for the troubles and miseries of each other, so as to share them by a kindly sympathy, pardoning and remitting to each other the injuries you may have mutually to sustain, after the example of God, who has pardoned us our manifold sins and injuries offered him, through the merits of his Son, Christ.

The best and most secure way of overcoming these evil propensities of nature is, to practise the opposite virtues. There is scarcely a passion more deeply rooted in our corrupt nature, and harder to eradicate, than the desire of retaliating and taking vengeance on our enemies, on those who have injured and are still disposed to injure us. But eradicate it, overcome it we must, if we wish to enter the kingdom of heaven, which suffers violence, and which only the violent can bear away. It is on condition that we forgive our enemies, that God forgives us. We can achieve the victory over this dreadful passion, to the gratification of which our corrupt nature so strongly urges us, by fervent prayer to God, who commands nothing above our strength, nothing which he will not grant us grace, if fervently besought for it, to accomplish. We can to this end also employ certain considerations. First—The example of God pardoning his enemies, “that you may be like your Father who is in heaven,” &c. What sins and outrages has he not remitted to us? He, the Creator, the Benefactor, pardoning his ungrateful creatures. Second—The example of the Son of God. How he wished to reclaim his apostate disciple, “friend, why camest thou hither?” On the cross he prays for his blasphemous persecutors, “Father, forgive them,” &c. Third—The example of the saints of old. Among the rest, David refused to stretch forth his hand against Saul, his unrelenting and unjust persecutor, and after his death, punished the Amalecite who said he slew him, and called on the rains and dews of heaven not to fall on the mountains of Gilboe, where he and his son had been slain. Fourth—Gratitude to God for his many benefits, for whose sake principally, and not for the sake of an ungrateful creature, we are called on to pardon our enemy. Fifth—The consideration of the wretched state of our enemy, exposed to eternal torments, the miserable condition of his soul who wishes to injure us. This should soften us into pity rather than vengeance. Sixth—The reward of this forgiveness, and self-victory, viz., peace of soul, tranquillity of conscience, which is but the earnest of future glory, the final reward which God has in store for those who make sacrifices for his sake. God is never outdone in generosity. No one ever made sacrifices for Him that did not receive an hundred-fold reward. Of this we have a striking example in the life and conversion of St. John Gualbert, after pardoning a mortal enemy.—(See his Life, July 12.)

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 3, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle, after having pointed out in the foregoing chapter, the blessings which the Ephesians were enjoying, refers to his own imprisonment then a matter of celebrity throughout the Church—for having preached to the Gentiles; this he did in order to secure for them their present happiness (Eph 3:1). From this he takes occasion to explain more fully the mystery of the vocation of the Gentiles and the divine economy regarding them. He says, that this mystery, regarding their vocation, and their admission to a share of the same blessings with the Jews—a secret hidden from the most knowing in past times—was made known to himself by revelation (Eph 3:3–7). He states, that he was made a minister of the Gospel, through the pure mercy of God, for the purpose of making known to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the economy of the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and not clearly known even to the angels until it was seen fully carried out in the Church (Eph 3:7–11). He points out one of the advantages resulting from this economy on the fart of God; it is, that the Gentiles as well as the Jews, are, in consequence, inspired with a filial confidence of approaching God, as children approach a father, and this through the mediation of Jesus (Eph 3:12). He next entreats them, after having been so highly favoured, not to grow faint-hearted or remiss on account of his own chains and afflictions in the cause of the Gospel (Eph 3:13).

He, next, suppliantly implores of God to grant them through his Holy Spirit to be strengthened in grace, and to be enabled to persevere in sanctity. He prays that they may be endowed with a knowledge, even in some degree, of the incomprehensible dimensions of the love of God for us, and that thus they may be fully replenished with heavenly gifts (Eph 3:14–19).

He concludes by calling upon the Church, favoured with so many blessings, to render eternal glory to their divine Source and Author (Eph 3:20-21).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Eph 3:1. It is for the purpose of securing for you the enjoyment of your present privileges, and their continuance, that I, Paul, (am) become the distinguished captive for the faith of Christ, on account of having preached to the Gentiles, and to you, Ephesians, among the rest.

“For this cause,” i.e., in order that you should be “fellow-citizens with the saints.” “The house of God,” &c. “I, Paul, (am) the prisoner,” the celebrated captive for Christ. The construction which supplies the verb, am, seems preferable to that adopted by many eminent interpreters; among the rest, by Estius and A’Lapide, who connect the words of this verse, “I, Paul,” with verse 14, “bow my knees to the Father,” &c., the intervening verse being included in a parenthesis. The arrangement in the Paraphrase is the more simple; it also makes the passage more intelligible. Nor does the article prefixed in the Greek to the word “prisoner,” ὁ δεσμιος, present any difficulty to this construction; for, it only denotes the celebrity of his chains, and it appears that the chains and imprisonment of the Apostle were a matter then celebrated all over the Church.

Eph 3:2. Since you must have heard from me during my three years’ sojourn, how, by divine dispensation, the grace of the Apostleship was granted to me to be exercised amongst you.

“If yet.” The Greek of which, ειγε, may also be rendered since, or, whereas, The words make good sense in our construction, thus: “if yet you have heard (as indeed you must have heard) of the dispensation, &c.” This has the same meaning as the other construction. Dispensation, in Greek, οικονομιαν means the economy exercised in the administration of domestic affairs. Hence the passage signifies, you must have been aware, that the great Father of the human family, who portions out their respective offices among his servants, has confided to me the office of apostleship to be exercised amongst you.

Eph 3:3. You must have been made aware, how the great mystery of the vocation of the Gentiles had been made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written in the preceding chapters.

“The mystery” refers to the vocation of the Gentiles, to be “fellow-heirs,” &c. (verse 6), and also to his own mission to preach the gospel amongst them. “The words you have heard,” (verse 2), are to be repeated in explaining this verse, thus: “you have heard, how that according to revelation,” &c., “above written in a few words,” he merely glanced at this subject in the preceding chapters. “Has been made known to me.” For which the common Greek reading is, εγνωρισε, he hath made known to me. The Vulgate reading, εγνωρισθη, is, however, better supported by ancient authorities.

Eph 3:4. I have not treated the subject in a manner by any means proportioned to the dignity of the mystery; I have only glanced at it briefly, and in such a way as would enable you to perceive from reading it, how far I have penetrated, by the aid of divine revelation, into the knowledge of this great secret of Christ.

“May understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” may either mean (as in Paraphrase), that you may perceive that the knowledge of the mystery was revealed to me; or, that you may perceive the same things which I know from revelation; so that the things known to me would be known to you also. This latter interpretation accords better with the Greek, although the former is more simple. The words prudence, wisdom, science, knowledge, are frequently employed by the Apostle to denote the same thing.

Eph 3:5. A secret or mystery which, in past ages, was not made known to the sons of men, to the extent to which it is now revealed by the Holy Ghost to the holy Apostles and Prophets of the New Law.

The mystery in question is the vocation of the Gentiles and their union with the Jews in the one body of the Church, &c., as in verse 6. This mystery was not made “known to the sons of men” in past times.

But, did not the prophets of old predict it? Must it not, therefore, have been known to them? Yes: the prophets of old, in consequence of having predicted it, must have known the substance of it; but still, they knew it only in an obscure, general way; they were ignorant, however, of the several circumstances of time, place, &c., which God revealed to the Apostles by the Holy Ghost. The “prophets” manifestly refer to those of the New Law.

Eph 3:6. This mystery, with which even the most learned among the ancients were not clearly acquainted, is this, viz., that the Gentiles were to be made co-heirs of the same mystical body, i.e., of the same Church, and joint partners with them, of a great promise of redemption which was to be given through Christ, and promulgated by means of the Gospel.

“And co-partners of his promise.” The “promise” referred to is, that made to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” in which are comprised all the blessings of the New Law, briefly expressed by the name of blessings of grace and glory. “In Christ Jesus by the gospel;” “Jesus” is omitted in the ordinary Greek. It is, however, read in the Codex Vaticanus.

Eph 3:7. Of which Gospel I am a minister, not through any merits of my own, but owing to the gratuitous gift of God, which has been bestowed upon me, for the purpose of administering it according to the power of God, both in the conversion of the Gentiles and the working of miracles.

He explains how it is that he is a minister of the Gospel, not through any merits of his own, but through the gratuitous donation of God, “according to the operation of his power.” This power is manifested in the success of the Apostle’s mission in converting the Pagans, and also in the working of miracles.

Eph 3:8. To me, the least of the least of all Christians, is given this grace to preach among the Gentiles the boundless riches of the blessings bestowed on us through Christ.

“To me, the least of all the saints.” The word for least, ελαχιστοτερω, is a comparative formed on a superlative, and means, the least of the least. The Apostle, after recounting the favours bestowed on him by God, recurs to his own unworthiness in terms of the most profound humility. He calls himself the most unworthy of the unworthy among Christians. It was one of the uniform maxims of the saints, that if the greatest sinners received the graces with which they themselves were favoured, they might be more worthy. Of course, all these sentiments of humility are true, if we abstract from the grace of God, and consider ourselves merely.

Eph 3:9. And also to teach all men and explain to them how admirable is the execution of that secret mystery or decree of his will hitherto concealed from eternity in God, and known to him alone who created all things.

The dispensation of the mystery” may also refer to the eternal wisdom of God, planning the secret; so that it may be taken to refer to the mystery in the mind of God. In the Paraphrase, it is referred to the execution and actual accomplishment of the decree, “from eternity,” απο τῶν αἰώνων, a sæculis “who created all things,” and in the Greek are added the words, by Jesus Christ. By Christ all things were created. This refutes the errors of the Gnostics, who maintained that this world was created by the angels. The words, by Jesus Christ, are, however, rejected by critics, as devoid of support from ancient manuscripts.

Eph 3:10. Hence it comes to pass, that to the principalities and powers, as well as the other angelic orders, who dwell in the heavens, the wonderful and multifarious wisdom of God, regarding these mysteries of Christ, is now fully and circumstantially made known, whilst they are fully accomplished in the Church.

Some understand by the “principalities and powers,” the good and bad angels; for, the bad angels who retained the name of principalities, &c., after their fall, are said also “to dwell in high places.”—(Eph 6:12). It is better, however, restrict them to the good angels, all of whom are represented in the two orders just mentioned.

But did not the angels know all this, since it was through them that God imparted the knowledge of these things to the ancient prophets?

Yes, like the prophets themselves (verse 5), they knew them in a general, obscure manner; but it was only when this economy was wonderfully executed in the Church that they knew matters fully and circumstantially, “through the Church,” i.e., they were made known by their wonderful accomplishment in the Church in which they were displayed.

Eph 3:11. This multifarious wisdom, which has been made known in all its circumstances to the angels, was in accordance with the eternal decree which God made from eternity, regarding future ages, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ.

“According to the eternal purpose,” in Greek, κατα προθεσιν των αιωνων (according to the purpose of ages), “which he made in Christ Jesus,” &c. The words, “he made,” may be also understood of the execution of this decree in time, thus: which purpose he executed in time, through Christ Jesus. The Paraphrase makes it regard the passing of the decree from eternity.

Eph 3:12. In whose name we have a freedom of communication with God, and a freedom of access to him in confidence, not in fear, and this through faith which teaches all regarding Jesus, calculated to inspire this confidence, viz., that he is our mediator and intercessor with the Father.

“Boldness” means freedom of address and communication, “by the faith of him;” faith is the source of this confidence, since it is by faith we are taught regarding Jesus, that he is our mediator, &c., a fact calculated to inspire this confidence.

Eph 3:13. Since, then, such is your dignity, such the privileges bestowed on you in accordance with God’s eternal and wise decree, I pray you not to grow remiss or faint-hearted in consequence of the chains and afflictions which I endure on account of preaching to you the gospel; for these afflictions are a subject of glory to you, since they are the stigmata of Christ in me; and hence, a matter of glory for you, that your Apostle should so suffer for Christ.

“Your glory,” ὑμῶν δοξα. These sufferings are the stigmata of Christ in me, the prelude to my martyrdom; and hence, a subject of glory to you, that your Apostle is accounted worthy, &c. (vide Paraphrase); or, they are “your glory,” as being attestations of my sincerity, in preaching the gospel to you; and hence, a source of glory to you, to have been converted by so sincere and devoted an Apostle.

Eph 3:14. In order that you may persevere, and not fall away, owing to any feelings of despondence arising from my sufferings for you, I bend my knees, and humbly and reverently implore the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Many able Commentators include the entire passage from this to the first verse of this chapter within a parenthesis, and connect this verse immediately with verse 1. “For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles”—(Eph 3::1) “bow my knees,” &c—(verse 14). The connection adopted in the Paraphrase supposes the verb “I am,” to be understood in verse 1, so that the words “for this cause,” in verse 1 and verse 14, refer to different things; verse (1) to the preceding chapter, and verse (14) to the perseverance of the Ephesians. And this opinion is rendered still more probable, if we look to the object of his petition in the following verses, being the same which he expresses a fear of their losing—(verse 13). “Of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These words are wanting in the chief MSS., and St. Jerome did not consider them genuine.

Eph 3:15. From whom is derived all paternity in heaven or earth, i.e., from whom, as Father, every family, whether of angels in heaven or of men on earth, derives its orign,

This is said by the Apostle for the purpose of confounding the heretics of the day, included under the general denomination of Gnostics, who maintained that there were many principles of existence besides the Supreme Being.

Eph 3:16. To grant you, according to the abundance of his mercy, and beneficence in which he glories, to be strengthened and confirmed in his powerful grace by the Holy Spirit, that your interior and spiritual progress may increase more and more every day.

“Into the inward man,” so that your interior man, illumined by grace, and acting up to the principles of faith, may become every day more and more strong and robust.

Eph 3:17. To grant you also that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; and that your charity may be firm and everlasting.

“By faith;” faith being the foundation of all Christian virtues, “rooted and founded in charity.” He wishes to convey an idea of the unshaken firmness of the charity, for which he prays on their behalf, by comparing it to a tree, the roots of which are firmly shot into the earth, or to an edifice, built on a firm foundation. The words “rooted and founded in charity,” are connected by some with the following verse, as in our English version. It seems better, however, to connect them with the preceding (as in Paraphrase).

Eph 3:18. That you may be able in some measure to comprehend with all Christians for whom I pray, the same things, the dimensions of the magnitude of the divine goodness in the mysteries of human redemption and of the vocation of the Gentiles.

“The length, breadth,” &c., are put down for the measures of magnitude, they are the dimensions by which magnitude is measured; hence, the verse means, that you may be able in some measure, and as far as is given to human weakness, to comprehend and value the excessive goodness of God, in the mysteries of redemption and in calling the Gentiles. It is likely that the Apostle uses the words “breadth, length,” &c., in allusion to the errors of the Gnostic heretics, respecting the different Eons. These heretics understood by “breadth, length,” &c., the plerōma in which these beings were contained. He applies to Christ, what they had been applying and attributing to their different imaginary beings, and insinuates that all their supposed perfections were really united in him.

Eph 3:19. And that you may also know and value, as far as human imperfection will permit, the charity of Christ, which far exceeds all human thought or comprehension, so that you may be replenished with divine love and knowledge, and with a plenitude of all spiritual blessings.

“That you may be filled unto all the fulness of God,” ἵνα πληρωθητε εις παν το πληρωμα τοῦ θεου, for which we have in the Codex Vaticanus, ἵνα πληρωθη παν το πληρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ. “that all the fulness of God. may be filled in you.” This is manifestly allusive to the plerōma in the system of the Gnostics. As if the Apostle meant to say, Christ is the plerōma of Christians; in Him is contained the entire Divinity; in Him are eminently contained all the most exalted spiritual and intellectual beings. He is the great source and fountain of all blessings.

For an admirable dissertation on the words, “length,” “breadth,” “height,” “depth,” see Hay’s “Devout Christian,” chap 3. In the dissertation referred to, “the breadth” of divine love is understood of the excessive magnitude of the benefits which God bestows on us here, and has in store for us hereafter; “the length,” of their eternal duration; “the height,” of the sublimity and exalted nature of the same benefits, particularly in the order of grace, in which we are “made partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and receive a new spiritual being; and “the depth,” of the sincerity and disinterestedness displayed in God’s favours. He is our God—we are his creatures; his happiness is independent of our happiness or misery. O God! inspire us with due feelings of gratitude; may we be ever mindful of Thy infinite goodness to us.

Eph 3:20. But to him who, by the power of his grace, which we daily experience working in us, is able to do all things superabundantly, even beyond what we ask or conceive:

The Apostle himself, replenished with that fulness of divine gifts which he wishes for others, bursts forth into the praises of God, who, he says, is able to do more than we can ask for or understand, as appears from the gifts of grace which he bestows on us, and the power with which he has vested us, beyond all our hopes or expectation.

Eph 3:21. To him, I say, be rendered eternal glory in the Church, which he has enriched with so many blessings, and that through Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. Amen.

“To him be glory in the Church,” favoured with so many blessings, and which is to last for ever; through Jesus Christ, its head, and our mediator, the source of all our benedictions, through whom, therefore, we should return thanks to God. Hence, it is, we find that the Church terminates all her solemn prayers by the words, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” &c. Per Dominum nostrum, Jesum Christum Filium tuum, &c.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 3, 2019

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle applies to the Ephesians in particular, what he had said in general regarding the power of God exerted in the spiritual resuscitation of sinners (Eph 1:19). He depicts the wretched condition of the Ephesians when dead in sin; and he shows, that the same description applied to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles (Eph 2:1–3). He also shows how, through the infinite mercy of God, they were resuscitated unto a spiritual resurrection—of which the resurrection of Christ was the model—and made sharers in his heavenly kingdom (Eph 2:4–7). He reminds them, that those favours were purely the result of God’s gratuitous goodness, without any merits of theirs; for, their justification was a kind of new creation, and as well might the world glory in its production out of nothing, as they, in their new spiritual existence (Eph 2:8–12). In order to inspire them with due feelings of gratitude, and to stimulate them to serve God with greater fervour, he tells them, in the next place, to keep always in mind, their former spiritual destitution, and wretched state, and their present blessedness secured for them through the merits of Christ; and he explains how Christ brought about such exalted ends (Eph 2:11–19). From all this he concludes, that they are no longer strangers, but domestics of God; and he illustrates the union that subsisted between the Ephesians and the rest of the faithful by the metaphor of a spiritual edifice of which they form a part, having been built on Christ and his Apostles (Eph 2:20-22).

Text in purple ijndicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Eph 2:1. “And when you were spiritually dead by reason of your sins and transgressions, having been deprived of the life of sanctifying grace,”

“And you, when you were dead in your sins.” This verse is to be connected with following verse, 5, thus: “and you, when dead in your sins,” God (4) “hath quickened together in Christ” (5). The intervening verses, 2-3, are to be read within a parenthesis. “Offences” and “sins,” differ in this, that “offence” is an omission, “sin,” commission; or, more probably in this; that “offence” refers to sins of ignorance, “sins,” to those of knowledge.

Eph 2:2. (In which state of sinfulness you lived in former times, following, or rather led away by the foolish vanities of the world, and instigated by the prince of these wicked spirits, who exert their power in the air which we inhale—spirits, that now exercise dominion over the children of unbelief—

“The course of this world.” The “world” is the first source of sin. Another cause of sin is “the prince of the power of this air;” or, the instigation of the devil. “The power of this air,” is used for “the powers of this air,” the singular for the plural. “Of the spirit” is also used for “spirits,” and means the same as “powers.” They were instigated by the prince of the powers that dwell in the air, spirits that now work upon those who obstinately persevere in resisting the faith. They are called “powers,” after the fall, retaining the same name which they had before they rebelled against God. The same is also true of the other eight orders of fallen spirits, who retain the names and respective hierarchical rank they had before their revolt. If we retain the word “power” and “spirit” in the singular number, the sense will be the same; for, it is through the other devils, that the prince of them exerts his power and carries on his fiendish war against mankind; “that now worketh,” του νῦν ενεργοῦντος, that now exerts his energies. From this passage the Holy Fathers inferred, that the air which we inhale is peopled by the contrary powers. St. Jerome assures us that “the entire space between Heaven and Earth is filled with these hostile powers.” Against their attacks we have, however, the prayers of the Church.

Eph 2:3. In which state of sinfulness, we also, Jews, continued at one time to live, consenting to the desires of carnal concupiscence, and externally consummating in deed, its suggestions with regard to both carnal and spiritual sins, and by the very corruption of our nature, we were sinners and children of wrath, like all the other nations of the earth).

“In which,” is rendered by some, among whom. Estius prefers “in which,” referring them to both “offences and sins” (verse 1). The Greek will admit of this. The Apostle here shows, that all had sinned, as was also shown in his Epistle to the Romans. “Desires of our flesh,” refer to the sinful motions of concupiscence. “Fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts,” externally consummating in deed, sins of a carnal and spiritual kind to which corrupt concupiscence impelled us. “By nature, children of wrath.” “By nature” some understand our natural propensities and inclinations; others, more probably, refer it to our nativity. Hence they make it refer to original sin, of which these words are commonly understood. And the Greek word for “children,” τεκνα, favours this; as if he said, from our nativity we were children of wrath; in other words, we were begotten children of wrath, owing to the sin of Adam. The corrupt nature which we inherit from him after his fall from original innocence, renders us liable to wrath, or to the just judgment of God. We must, therefore, have sinned in our nativity, since God could not otherwise justly punish us; for, he is rendered angry by sin only.

From the frightful picture drawn by the Apostle, in this passage, of the state of the sinner, we can judge of his wretched condition. He is dead before God—deprived of grace—subject to the devil—animated by the spirit of the world, and a slave to his own disorderly passions—the child of wrath—and the victim of God’s eternal and just vengeance. Oh! what gratitude do we not owe our good God for having rescued us so often from this deplorable condition. “Misericordiæ Domini quia non sumus consumpti.” “Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quæ retribuit mihi?”

Eph 2:4. God, who is rich in mercy, owing to the excessive charity with which he loved us,

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

Eph 2:5. Even when, like you (verse 1) we were spiritually dead in our sins, bestowed upon us spiritual life, after the example of Christ, by raising us from spiritual death, as he raised him from the grave (by whose grace you have been saved).

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

Eph 2:6. And rendered us partakers of the new and glorified life of Christ, and made us sit with him in heaven, by the assurance and pledge given us, that our present hopes shall, at a future day, be surely realized.

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

Eph 2:7. And all this he has done for the purpose of manifesting in future ages, unto the end of time, the abundant riches of his grace by the benignity he has shown us in Christ Jesus—that thus he may be glorified in his gifts.

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

Eph 2:8. For, it is owing to the gratuitous benefits of Christ, you have obtained initial salvation, or justification through faith; and this faith is not of yourselves, it is to be classed as a grace; for, it is the gift of God.

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

Eph 2:9. By faith, and not by works preceding faith, you have been saved, or justified; that no man may glory as if he was justified through any merit of his own.

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

Eph 2:10. For, we are his workmanship, having received from him a second creation in our spiritual regeneration in baptism through Christ Jesus, for the purpose of performing the good and holy works which lie prepared, in order that we should perseveringly exercise ourselves in them.

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

Eph 2:11. As, then, you have been justified by the grace of Christ, always keep in mind what you formerly were, and what you have now become, and thus you will see the magnitude of the benefits conferred on you; call to mind, that you, formerly Gentiles by birth—having been born of Gentile parents—and called through contempt, in consequence of not being circumcised, uncircumcision, by the Jews who, owing to the carnal circumcision made in the flesh, were called circumcision or circumcised;

In order to make the Ephesians sensible of the magnitude of the benefits bestowed on them, and how much they owed to Christ, through whose grace they had been saved or justified, the Apostle begs of them to call to mind their past deplorable condition, and contrast it with their present state. In their former state they were “Gentiles in the flesh,” i.e., by birth; contemptuously “called uncircumcision,” because they had not been circumcised, “by that which is called circumcision,” that is to say, by the Jews, who were circumcised in the flesh, which the Apostle expresses in allusion to circumcision of another kind, the true spiritual Christian circumcision of the heart and of all the passions of our corrupt nature.

Eph 2:12. Were at that time without any knowledge of Christ, our Redeemer, without faith or hope in him, which the Jews had, by whom he was expected, and to whom he was promised—excluded from all intercourse with the chosen people of God—strangers to the testimonies or compacts which God had, at different times, made with Moses and the Patriarchs—without any hope in the promises of redemption and the graces that were to come through the Messiah—and without God, whom you either imperfectly knew, or failed to serve and adore, mere Atheists, and that, “in this world,” where he is to be honoured, as in his own house and temple.

He wishes them to call to mind with grateful remembrance, for their liberation and their present happiness, their former wretched spiritual condition. They were then without faith or hope in Christ; they were without the grace of Christianity, which they now enjoy, and which is the source of all their spiritual blessings. “Having no hope of the promise,” which some understand of the promise of the Messiah, (as in Paraphrase); others of the promise of eternal life, and the resurrection of the body “Without God,” in the Greek, αθεοι, Atheists; “in this world,” the Greek is, ἐν τῶ κοσμω, “in the world.”

We, too, were, like the Ephesians, Gentiles in the flesh. Hence, everything said of the Ephesians by the Apostle equally applies to us. Our miseries and crimes would be the same as theirs. Hence, the benefits in our vocation to the faith are equal to those conferred on them. Should we not, therefore, feel equal gratitude to God, who has shown such excessive love for us, in preference to millions, whom he has never called?

Eph 2:13. But now call to mind what you are become through the merits and goodness of Christ Jesus, or, since you embraced the faith of Christ. You, who before were far off from Christ, from his covenant, from his saving hope, and from God himself, are now made nigh, you have a full participation in all these blessings, owing to the redemption purchased for you by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Having pointed out their former hideous and deplorable state, the Apostle shows what they are become “now in Christ Jesus,” which some interpret, through the merits of Christ Jesus, giving the words the same meaning with the words at the end of the verse, “the blood of Christ.” Others understand them to mean—since you became Christians. (Both meanings are given in the Paraphrase). “Afar off” and “made nigh,” are figurative expressions, denoting the pious worshippers of God admitted to his presence, and the impious far excluded from his presence and favour.

Eph 2:14. For, he is our peace-maker, who, of both Jews and Gentiles, has made one people, beaking down the middle wall of partition, which was the cause of perpetual enmities between both peoples, by the death which he suffered in his flesh.

He says it was owing to the merits and passion of Christ, that we were admitted to an equal participation with the Jews in the blessings referred to. “For he is our peace,” i.e., peace-maker, hence, called “our peace,” from being its cause in us, just as he as called “our justice, Redemption,” &c. “Wall of partition;” the Apostle uses this expression, in allusion to the middle wall in the temple of Jerusalem dividing the court of the Gentiles from that of the Jews. “Enmities,” i.e., the cause of enmities “in his flesh,” by his death and bodily sufferings.

Eph 2:15. By the middle wall of partition and the cause of enmities, are meant the ceremonial precepts of the law of Moses, which Christ made void by substituting the precepts of the Christian religion in their place, so as to make of the two men, in whom the Jews and Gentiles are represented, but one new man, in himself as head, making peace between them, and taking away all cause for disunion.

He explains what this “middle wall of partition,” this cause of enmities, was. It was, “the law of commandments,” which is generally understood to refer to the ceremonial law of the Jews. For, this it was, that upheld the enmities between the Jews and Gentiles; that generated in the Jew, a supercilious, disdainful spirit towards the Gentile, and that reciprocally created in the mind of the Gentile a deadly hatred and contempt for the Jew. Judæus Apelles, was the opprobrious epithet with which the Gentile usually addressed the Jew. “In decrees,” by which some understood the ceremonial law, consisting “in decrees.” Others, more probably, understand by them the precepts of the Christian faith, which not only point out our duties, but also carry with them grace and strength for their fulfilment; hence called, dogmata in the Greek, νομον εντολων εν δογμασι: whereas, the Mosaic law barely commanded, but gave no strength or grace; hence, called “law of commandments,” or, the commanding, preceptive law. Then “in decrees,” mean “by decrees,” he made void the ceremonial law, having substituted the former in its place. “That he might make the two,” &c. The Apostle represents both peoples, as two men, and to show how perfect is the union effected, he says that Christ united both as closely as any one man is united in his own affections. He also insinuates the new form this one man has assumed, and this new form is effected in himself as head, so that they are not only one man, but, “one new man.” All distinctions of Jew and Gentile are merged in the Christian character.

Eph 2:16. And to reconcile both peoples in the one body of the Church of God, by his death on the cross, having destroyed by his own sufferings the enmities that subsisted between Jews and Gentiles, and between both and God.

Another effect of Christ’s peace-making, he not only reconciled both peoples among themselves, but, by his death on the cross, he reconciled them to God after being formed into one body of the Church. “Enmities,” or the disunion between God and man, owing to the sins of man, unredeemed and unremitted, he “killed,” by paying a ransom for sin, “in himself,” ἐν αὐτῶ, are rendered by others, in it, meaning the cross. Both meanings are given in the Paraphrase.

Eph 2:17. And having come into the world, he preached by his ministers, peace, reconciliation with God, and union with men, to you, who were far removed from his hope and saving knowledge, and in person to us Jews, who already hoped in him and expected him.

Some understand this of the birth of Christ, when the angels chanted “peace to men,” &c.—(Luke 2:13). It is better to understand it of his preaching in person to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and preaching through his Apostles and chosen ministers to the Gentiles (as in Paraphrase).

Eph 2:18. For, it is through him, we Jews and Gentiles have a confidential access as children, to the heavenly Father, under the guidance and direction of the same Holy Spirit, so as to call him by the endearing name of Father.

He speaks of Christ as the person who ushers us into the presence of God, and affords us that confidential access to him which we enjoy, calling him “Abba, Father;” and this, through “one spirit,” the Holy Ghost, who is the spirit of the adoption of children. Others by the “one spirit,” understands the spirit of concord and charity, in which we are united. He alludes to the usage prevalent with the great ones of this world, who require for admission to their presence an introduction by the person appointed for that purpose.

Eph 2:19. Now, therefore, you are no longer, as you were in your Gentile, unconverted state, strange citizens and mere guests in the family; but you are fellow-citizens of the saints, and inmates of God’s own house.

Among the benefits resulting from their justification is this, viz., that they are no longer “strangers,” deprived of the rights of citizens, as they were before, when “strangers to the testament” (verse 12), and “foreigners,” not belonging to the household of God, for they were “afar off” (verse 13), nay, “without God.” But they now are “fellow-citizens with the saints,” which may refer to the Patriarchs and saints of old with whom they were connected, as being the spiritual Israel—or, it may refer to the faithful members of the Church of Christ, who are frequently called “saints,” by the Apostle; and they are inmates of God’s own family.

Eph 2:20. You are built upon the Apostles and Prophets, who hold the place of secondary foundations in the spiritual edifice of the Church, Jesus Christ himself being its primary foundation, as chief corner-stone laid at the bottom of the building, supporting in one, both Jew and Gentile.

The Apostle introduces the metaphor of the house to which he already had compared the Church of Christ (verse 14). He shows the union that had subsisted between the Ephesians and the rest of the faithful, as they form a part of the spiritual edifice built upon Christ and the Apostles, &c. Christ is the primary foundation in this edifice; it is by his faith and grace it is sustained. “The Prophets,” who ushered in the Gospel, and “the Apostles,” who were the first to announce it, are called a “foundation,” but only secondary foundations, since Christ is the corner-stone, on which both the walls, that is to say, Jews and Gentiles, were united, on which both rested; and by which, both were supported, forming only one edifice. This furnishes no objection against the Primacy of St. Peter; for, there is an order of priority and preference between the secondary foundations, as is shown in the proofs of the Primacy. The Apostles were foundations; but, still, subordinate to St. Peter, the “rock on which Christ built his Church,” the chief shepherd to whom the entire flock was given in charge, “lambs and sheep,” pastors and people.

Eph 2:21. Upon whom, as chief corner-stone, the entire edifice of the Church, compactly joined and cemented together, is reared up unto a holy temple consecrated to the Lord.

“A holy temple in the Lord,” i.e., of the Lord; or, “holy,” through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph 2:22. Upon whom as chief corner-stone, you Ephesians also are built together with the rest of Christians, constituting parts of this temple, so as to become the habitation of God; this is effected by the Spirit of God, who by his holy grace cements you together and prepares you to be his holy habitation.

The Ephesians form a part of this holy temple; hence, the close union they have contracted with the friends of God, forming a part of the same spiritual edifice with them.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 3, 2019

Links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle commences this Epistle with the usual form of Apostolical salutation (Eph 1:1-2). In the next place, he bursts forth into the praise and benediction of God, for his heavenly blessings bestowed on us gratuitously through Christ. He enumerates the principal among these blessings, which are, our election, in accordance with his eternal decree, to be holy and unspotted in his sight (Eph 1:4), our predestination to be his adopted sons (Eph 1:5), the grace of justification and true sanctity rendering us really pleasing to him (Eph 1:6), the remission of our sins (Eph 1:7), the gifts of wisdom (Eph 1:8), and a full knowledge and revelation of his eternal designs, in the redemption and spiritual renovation of the human race, and all this granted to us gratuitously, without any merits of our own, either actual or foreseen, solely through the merits of Christ (Eph 1:9–12).

He then exhorts the Ephesians to bless God, for making them, no less than the Jews, partakers of these blessings, and for giving them his holy Spirit, as a sure earnest of the eternal inheritance in store for them (Eph 1:13–15). He next addresses a fervent prayer to God, to enlighten their intellects with a fuller and more perfect knowledge of the great grace of their vocation, and their conversion from the degrading worship of idols, which was an exertion of divine power nowise inferior to that exercised in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, when he was raised above the different ranks of angels, and placed, as head, over the entire Church, militant and triumphant, embracing both men and angels, and receiving its completion in him.

Text in purple indicates Fr MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Eph 1:1. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, neither self-sent, nor commissioned by man, but sent by the command and authority of God (salutes) all the Christians at Ephesus, who are, by their profession, called to a state of sanctity, and steadfastly persevere in the faith of Christ Jesus.

For the exposition of this verse, see the commentary on Romans, 1.; and the commentary on Galatians, 1.

Eph 1:2. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual gifts, and their undisturbed possession, from their efficient cause, God the Father, and their meritorious cause, Jesus Christ, our Lord, in right of redemption.

The usual form of Apostolical salutation.

Eph 1:3. Eternal praise and thaksgiving be rendered to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, in consideration of the merits of Christ, has bestowed upon us all spiritual blessings, which are to be accomplished not on earth, but in heaven.

“The God and Father,” ὁ θεος και πατηρ, rendered “the God and Father,” &c. It will also admit of this rendering, “the God who is Father,” &c., according to the Hellenistic usage of employing the conjunction instead of the relative pronoun, by way of explanation.—(Kenrick). Our blessing of God is quite different from his blessing of us. His benediction of us consists in bestowing benefits; whereas, our benediction of him (since we can bestow no good in return—“he stands not in need of our goods,”—Psalm), consists in acts of praise, thanksgiving and the like. “Spiritual blessings,” viz., faith, grace, &c., which are to be accomplished not on earth, but in heaven; “in heavenly places,” εν τοις επουρανιοις (Vulgate, in cœlestibus). Some Commentators understand these latter words to refer to heavenly things: it is rendered so by Dr. Kenrick; but, this seems to be an improbable meaning, since it was sufficiently expressed already by “spiritual blessings.” Hence, the words refer to heavenly places, or heaven, where these blessings are to be fully completed, unlike the blessings and earthly inheritance conferred on the Jews, to which he would appear to allude by way of contrast. “In Christ;” hence it is to Christ, the meritorious cause of these blessings, we ought to recur, and not to angels, as was asserted by the Gnostics, who maintained, among other errors, that the angels created the world, and that they, and not Christ, are the mediators and intercessors between God and man.

Eph 1:4. In thus enriching us in time, he has only carried out his eternal decree regarding us, according to which, he has chosen us from eternity in consideration of the merits of Christ, to be holy and free from gross transgressions, even in his own sight, and this to be effected through sanctifying grace and charity.

The Apostle here ascends to the source of God’s blessing in time—namely, his election from eternity, which eternity is frequently expressed in SS. Scriptures by the words, “before the foundation of the world;” or, as the Greek has it, πρὸ καταβοτης κοσμου, before casting the foundation of the world. The Apostle points out the source and completion of spiritual blessings. They began in eternity, and shall be consummated there. As a pledge of the love which he bore us in electing us from eternity, God has given us the spiritual blessings which shall terminate only in eternity. The immediate end of our election by God was, that we should be “holy,” i.e., gifted with real sanctity and sanctifying grace; “and unspotted,” i.e., free from gross offences; for, to avoid all venial sins, a special privilege on the part of God, such as the Church holds regarding the Blessed Virgin, is required (Concil. Trid. SS. vi. Can. xxiii.), which St. Paul does not appear to contemplate here, in addressing Christians in general.

“In charity,” may either refer to the motive of God in predestining us, which was his great charity for us, or, more probably (as in Paraphrase), to the formal cause of our justification, the gift of charity, an inseparable attendant of sanctifying grace. Hence, there is no argument here for the advocates of the theological opinion of ante prævisa merita, (regarding which, see Romans 8:30).

Eph 1:5. Who predestined us to be adopted sons unto himself, not in consideration of any merits of ours, either actual or foreseen, but in consideration of the merits of Christ: and this, according to his own good will and pleasure.

Another proof of the love of God.—God might have elected us to sanctity without making us his adopted sons, although, in the present order of things, both are identical. This adoption he has conferred on us “through Jesus Christ.” “Unto himself,” may be referred to Christ, so as to mean, unto his glory, it being a source of glory to Christ, to be the first-born of these adopted sons of God. The Greek, εἰς αυτον, favours the interpretation in the Paraphrase, adopted sons unto himself, or, for himself. The perfect gratuitousness of this divine filiation is pointed out in the words, “according to the purpose of his will.”

Eph 1:6. Of which predestination the final end was, that he himself would receive praise and glory for the great grace conferred on us, by which he made us really acceptable in his sight, in consideration of his own well-beloved Son.

The Apostle here assigns the end or final cause of our predestination—viz., the glory of God. “Unto the praise of the glory,” i.e., the glorious praise of his grace. Commentators here remark, that all the causes of predestination are enumerated in this passage. The efficient cause, God the Father, “who predestined us” (verse 5). The meritorious cause, “Christ Jesus.” The material or subjective cause, “predestined us.” The formal cause, the decree of God, “he chose us.” The final cause, God’s glory, &c., “unto the praise of his glory.” The phrase, “in which he hath graced us,” (εχαριτωσεν, Vulgate, gratificavit), proves, according to the natural meaning of the words, real and inherent justice; since he made us acceptable, by the infusion of sanctifying grace.

“In his beloved Son.” The Greek wants “Son,” and has only ἐν τῶ ηγαπημενω, in the Beloved, which like the word, Christ, is an epithet of our Redeemer.

From the entire context it is clear, that the predestination to which the Apostle refers is the predestination to grace. First, because the object of the predestination in question is (verse 4), “that we might be holy.” Secondly, because the Apostle addresses all the Ephesians, “all the saints, &c.”—(verse 1). Now, it is not likely, he would say, they were all predestined to glory, as this would exclude that salutary fear which he inculcates elsewhere. He never could have meant to reveal to them all publicly, their predestination to glory. Besides, we can hardly suppose that they were all saved.

Eph 1:7. By whom we have been redeemed from sin and hell, having been ransomed by the price of his blood, the first effect of which ransom is, the remission of our sins, according to the abundant riches of his grace.

Christ poured forth his blood to ransom us from captivity. The consequence of which ransom, or rather the ransom itself was, the remission of our sins. This was an extraordinary exercise of his boundless grace. Can the mind conceive anything like it? A God dying, and pouring out the last drop of his blood, quite gratuitously, as a ransom for the very creature who offended him! He submits to the torture which he could not merit, to save us from the eternal tortures we merited; he, the offended party, and the Creator, died for us, his offending creatures.—“Sic amantem quis non redamet?”—St. Bernard. “Ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti.”

Eph 1:8. Which grace has been plenteously bestowed on us in all knowledge regarding the truths of faith, and in the knowledge of our practical duties, of the things to be done and of the things to be omitted.

“Which (grace) has superabounded,” or, as in the Greek, ἧς ἐπερὶσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς which he has made to superabound towards us, i.e., Apostles in particular, and towards others, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit. “Wisdom,” is understood by some, of the wisdom of God in the mystery, to which he refers, regarding the union of men and angels under one head, Christ; and “prudence” they understand of his selection of the time and other circumstances; for, the object of prudence is the selection of proper means and befitting circumstances.

Eph 1:9. He has plenteously filled us with this wisdom and knowledge, by making known to us the secret decree of his Providence, which solely depended on his own good will and pleasure—a secret decree which he disclosed to us, through Christ.

“That he might make known.” The Greek, γνωρίσας, means, having made known. “Which he hath purposed in him,” are understood by some to refer to Christ (as in Paraphrase). Others understand them to refer to God the Father himself; according to this construction, warranted by the Greek, ἥν (εὐδοκίαν) προέθετω ἐν αὐτῶ, verse 10, εἰς οικονομίαν, the words will mean, which (good pleasure) he purposed within himself and kept concealed (verse 10). “Unto the dispensation of the fulness,” &c.; “dispensation,” or economy, denotes the plan for man’s redemption.

Eph 1:10. The secret is, his will to renew in Christ, after the lapse of ages determined on by himself, all things that are in heaven, by filling up the vacated seats of the fallen angels, and on earth, by freeing us from the thraldom of sin and Satan, and by giving us justice and grace; and this, through Christ, and none other.

The great secret referred to is, to renew all things, &c. (as in Paraphrase) This interpretation conveys the same meaning as the passage (Hebrews 9:23): “but it is necessary … that the heavenly thing themselves be cleansed with better sacrifices than these.” Others, looking to the Greek word for “re-establish,” ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι, which means, to recapitulate, understand it, of his making Christ the head of all, men and angels, and subjecting men and angels to him as head; hence, uniting earth and heaven, men and angels, so long dissevered from each other. “In him,” and none other. Since “there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12); and the Apostle repeats “in him,” from the excess of his burning love for Christ.

Eph 1:11. Through whom we are called, without any merit on our part, and as if by lot, having been, however, on the part of God, predestined according to his wise and deliberate purpose, who does nothing blindly, but does all things according to the determined counsel of his will.

“By lot,” conveys that we had no more claims to the inheritance in question, than we would have were we to obtain it by mere chance in a lottery; that it was, in regard to us, perfectly independent of merit, though, in regard to God, wisely and deliberately determined. Or, “called by lot,” may mean, called to the inheritance, which is termed a “lot,” perhaps, in allusion to the mode in which the inheritance of the Promised Land was given to the Jews, an inheritance with which he contrasts this heavenly one, to which we are all called by Christ.

Eph 1:12. In order that we Jews, who were the first to believe and hope in Christ, may be instrumental in procuring the praise of his glory, by manifesting to the world the riches of his grace poured out upon us.

“We who before hoped in Christ.” “Before” is used in a comparative sense. The Jews having been called to the faith before the Gentiles, had hoped, and consequently believed in Christ, before the Gentiles did; or “before” may mean, in former times, since many of the Jews longed for the Messiah, through faith in whom they were justified.

Eph 1:13. In whom you also were called to the inheritance, when you heard the word of God, wherein everything is true, and no falsehood, which also conveyed to you the glad tidings of salvation. In whom, after having received the faith, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit promised in the Sacred Scriptures.

This is to be immediately connected with verse 11. “In whom you also” (were called to the inheritance, &c.) “In whom also believing.” In the Greek it is, πιστευσαντες, after having believed. “You were signed with the Holy Spirit” promised in the Scriptures. Some understand this to refer to the gratiæ gratis datæ, or external gifts of tongues, prophecy, cures, &c., abundantly bestowed in the infancy of the Church, which, although not certain marks of sanctity in individuals, still, furnish a sure argument that the members of the Church in which they abounded, were sons of promise. Others refer it to the ordinary graces of justification received in Baptism, and to the consequent peace and tranquillity of conscience, which affords a moral certainty of our being in the state of grace; this is more in accordance with the following verse.

Eph 1:14. Which Spirit is an earnest of our future inheritance in heaven, until we, who are the people of acquisition, or the people purchased by him, are fully redeemed, and all this for the praise of his glory.

This grace is an earnest of our inheritance until the time when we shall be fully redeemed, i.e., asserted into the liberty of the children of God;—we who are the acquired or purchased people. “Acquisition” is used for the “people acquired.” The word “earnest” has been employed in the Paraphrase rather than “pledge,” because the latter word sometimes implies, that there is something given on both sides; whereas, nothing is given by us to God. But an earnest is gratuitously bestowed to be perfected by the thing for which it is given. So the gifts of the Holy Ghost are an earnest to be left until we obtain possession of the inheritance promised to the redeemed people of God. The gifts of the Holy Ghost may be said to be faith, hope, and charity—the two former shall, one day, altogether cease, and be exchanged for vision and possession; while charity, remaining specifically the same, shall be perfected in heaven.

Eph 1:15. Wherefore, since I heard of the steadfastness of your faith in Christ, and of the charity exhibited by you towards all your fellow Christians,

The Apostle here turns to another subject. The Gentile converts were remarkable for their steady adhesion to the faith, and also for their charity towards their brethren in distress. “Love,” αγαπην, is wanting in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS., and in the copy used by St. Jerome.

Eph 1:16. I cease not to give thanks to God for these favours bestowed on you, and I also pray,

As these gifts of faith and love were not from themselves, the Apostle gives thanks for these gifts, as being received, and begs of God to grant a further increase and continuance of them.

Eph 1:17. That God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may bestow upon you the spirit of heavenly wisdom, and a further revelation, so that you may acquire a more perfect knowledge of him;

The object of his prayers for them was, “that the God,” &c. ὁ θεὸς τοῦ κυρίοῦ ἡμων Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ. According to the Vulgate punctuation, the words, “Father of glory,” refer to the preceding, from a fear, probably, of shocking Christian piety, by saying, “The God of Jesus Christ.” But does not Christ himself say, “my God,” and also “my God and your God?”—(John 20:17).—Kenrick. “The Father of glory” is used for the glorious Father, by a Hebrew idiom, which employs the genitive of the substantive for the adjective. The Apostle often repeats the glorious paternity of Christ, in order to refute the errors of the philosophers, who asserted that Christ was not the Son of the Supreme Deity. Others, understood the words to mean, the Father or Author of glory. “In the knowledge of him;” he refers to a more extended knowledge; since, they already knew him, having believed in him.

Eph 1:18. That your intellect may be enlightened, so that you may know more perfectly the greatness of these heavenly and eternal goods to which we are invited, and bound to hope for, and how rich and glorious is the inheritance God has in store for his faithful servants.

The more extended knowledge which he prays for them is, that their intellect, would be enlightened, &c. By “the eyes of your heart,” he means, their intellect. Instead of καρδιας, heart, the common Greek text has διανοιας, understanding; but the former is the reading of the chief MSS., and is preferred by some eminent Protestant critics, who regard the latter reading as a marginal gloss. “The hope,” i.e., the object we are bound to hope for, and which we are called to enjoy in the life to come, “of his calling.”

Eph 1:19. And that you may also know the supreme effort of his Almighty power, exerted in raising us from the grave of sin and infidelity to a new life of grace; this power he will exercise also in resuscitating us, at a future day, to a life of immortal glory.
Eph 1:20. This effort of power in our regard is perfectly similar and like unto that which he exerted in raising Christ from the dead, and in placing him at his own right hand in heaven, thereby declaring him equal to himself;

He prays, that God would make known to them the exceeding greatness of the power which he exerted in their favour, which is an effort of the same Omnipotence exerted in Christ’s Resurrection. Some understand this powerful effort of God’s Omnipotence by which he raised Christ, &c., to refer to our glorification at the last day. Others understand it of the spiritual resurrection and vivification of the believers, who, after their conversion, desert their vicious courses and live to God. The conversion of a sinner is reputed by St. Augustine and others, to be a greater effort of Divine power than the creation of heaven and earth. Both these meanings may be united (as in Paraphrase). The exercise of Divine power referred to, should, in the first instance, be understood of the spiritual vivification of the unbelievers, and their resurrection to a life of grace and faith, which spiritual resurrection is the assured forerunner of their future resurrection to glory, of which grace is the seed.

Eph 1:21. Placing him above all creatures and all orders of angels, whether they be principalities or powers, or virtues or dominations, and above every other created being whatsoever, be his title, dignity, or elevation what it may, either in this world or the world to come.

There are generally supposed to be nine orders of Blessed Spirits, four of which are mentioned here by the Apostle. “There are nine orders of Blessed Spirits,” says St. Gregory (Hom. 34), Angels, Archangels; to which almost every page of SS. Scripture bears testimony—the Cherubim and Seraphim are spoken of in the books of the Prophets. The Apostle here speaks of principalities, powers, virtues, and dominations; Col 1:16, he speaks of “thrones.” St. Dionysius (de Cœl. Hierar.) divides these nine orders into three Hierarchies, commencing with the highest. In the first Hierarchy, Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. In the second, Dominations, Virtues, Powers. In the third, and lowest, Principalities, Archangels, Angels. The sects of early heretics, who may all be included under the general denomination of Gnostics, entertained false notions regarding the dignity, the power, &c., of angels, whom they even placed above Christ. Hence, the Apostle says Christ was placed “far above” any of them (such is the meaning of the Greek word, ὑπεράνω), and above every other creature, visible or invisible, whether known to us in this world, or to be known in the future. “Every name that is named;” by “name” is meant the being named, be his title, celebrity, or authority, what it may.

Eph 1:22. And he has given him full dominion over all creatures, visible and invisible, and has constituted him head over the entire Church, embracing angels and men, Jews and Gentiles, both in its militant and triumphant state.

“He hath subjected all things under his feet:” (Psalms 8:8), i.e., has given him full dominion over all creatures. “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 27:22), though the full exercise of that dominion is to be enjoyed only in the life to come. “And made him head over all the Church,” not only inasmuch as he has supreme dominion over all its members; but also because he imparts to men his graces, thereby communicating to them spiritual life and animation. He may be said to be the head of angels, by being their ruler, and by having imparted to them his grace. For, it is the opinion of many, that it was owing to the grace of Christ, the good angels persevered, and that Lucifer’s sin and rebellion sprang from envy at the hypostatic union, which the Son of God was to accomplish in time by assuming human nature and uniting it with the Divinity.

Eph 1:23. This Church is his mystical body, and his complement, or perfection,—the head being incomplete without the body—and he is completed as to all the members of a body, since the several members of his Church perform the different functions suited to a mystic body.

“Who is filled all in all.” According to this rendering of the words, they mean, that Christ is completed, as to all the members of his body, in the different members or persons in his Church, that perform the several functions and duties suited to a mystic body, honoured with the headship of Christ. Some perform the functions of eye—others, of hand—others, of tongue, &c. The Greek, τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ τὰ παντα ἐν πἀσι πληρουμένου, may be rendered actively thus—“the fulness of him who fills all in all,” and then, the meaning will be—that Christ performed all the duties of a head towards the several members of his body, governing, directing, animating, and communicating the several graces requisite for the duties imposed upon them, and for complying with the different relations which they, as members, bear to the entire body. In the words above quoted, there seems to be a manifest allusion to the plerōma, in the false system of the Gnostics; as if the Apostle meant to convey, that Christ is the divine plerōma of Christians, in whom are virtually and eminently contained other spiritual beings, and their several perfections, not to speak of his containing in himself all the attributes of the Divinity. For, “in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “In him dwelleth corporally all the fulness (πληρωμα) of the Godhead.”—(Col 2:3, 9). It is not undeserving of remark, that the Apostle frequently employs in this Epistle, the word, πληρωμα, in treating of the perfections of Christ, for the reason already referred to (Eph 3:19, 4:13, &c.)

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Father MacEvilly’s Introduction to Ephesians

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 3, 2019


Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor, was distinguished for its wealth, and famed for the Temple of Diana, reckoned among the seven wonders of the world. To the faithful of this city, the present Epistle was specially addressed. By some it was formerly styled “The Epistle to the Laodiceans” in consequence, perhaps, of its being a circular addressed to all the Churches of Asia Minor, and among the rest to the Laodiceans; but, as Ephesus was the capital of that region, it is entitled, the Epistle to the Ephesians. Moreover, it is expressly addressed to “The Saints at Ephesus.”—(Eph 1:1).

Canonicity of.—The Canonicity, or Divine authoriry of this Epistle, has never been questioned in the Church; it is also admitted to have been written in Greek, the language spoken in the city of Ephesus.

Occasion of.—From the history of his life, it appears that St. Paul had preached for three years at Ephesus. This he himself states in his memorable address delivered to the Elders of that Church at Miletum, on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts, chapter 20). Having, on that solemn occasion, exhorted the Bishops, whom “the Holy Ghost had placed to rule the Church of God,” to the vigilant and zealous discharge of their exalted functions, he predicted that, after his departure, there would enter among them ravenous wolves devouring the flock; and that from amongst themselves men would spring up, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them. This prediction, as appears from the Epistle to Timothy, was fully verified. In Asia, the apostacy was very great, particularly among the Jewish converts; but, the greater part of the Gentiles, who formed the mass of the population, remained steadfast and firm. The occasion, then, of this Epistle was: Firstly, to commend the Gentile converts, to whom it was addressed, for their fidelity and adhesion to the faith; secondly, to caution them against the insidious snares of their enemies. The errors which he combats were principally those of the Gnostics—the early illuminati, or pretended reformers of the infant Church. He combats the errors of the Jewish zealots also, many of whom joining the Gnostics, united the errors of Judaism, regarding the legal ceremonies, with the more corrupt and perverse doctrines of the latter. Hence, in the three first chapters, which form the dogmatical part of this Epistle, the Apostle treats of eternal predestination; of the redemption of man by the death of Christ; and of the union of both Jews and Gentiles, angels and men, under one head, Christ, who was raised above all creatures. Their errors were not confined merely to matters of faith. They erred in morality also. Hence, in the three concluding chapters, the Apostle dwells on certain duties of morality, regarding which these men erred, and cautions the faithful against following their corrupt example.

Time and Place of.—It is certain that this Epistle was written from Rome, while the Apostle was in chains, and that it was sent by Tychicus, a Deacon, is testified by some Greek, and by the ordinary Latin, subscriptions. Whether during his first or second imprisonment is a controverted point, upon the determination of which will depend the question of time. If written during his first imprisonment, its date may be referred to the year, 62. If during his second, the year 65, or thereabouts, may, with great probability, be fixed upon.

Style of.—It is remarked by the Holy Fathers, and by Expositors of SS. Scriptures, that the Epistles written by St. Paul in prison, may be justly compared to the last note of the dying swan. They are distinguished for a burning and impassioned vehemence, with the order of expression confused and inverted; and display evident marks of labour and difficulty, on the part of the Apostle, to convey in suitable language the sublime feelings which animated him, panting for the crown of martyrdom, and for the long expected hour of dissolution and of eternal union with God.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018


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).


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 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).


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.


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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Father Callan’s Introduction to Ephesians

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018


1. Captivity Epistles. Four letters of St. Paul—those to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon— are known as the Captivity Epistles, because the Apostle was a prisoner when he wrote them, most probably at Rome (61-63 a.d.), as mentioned in Acts 28:30. This opinion is according to a very ancient tradition which the contents of those Epistles support. First of all, there is a similarity of vocabulary and style in these four letters, and Philippians seems to point directly to Rome when St. Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner, of the number of local preachers, and of Caesar’s household (Phil. 1:7-17, 4: 22). Moreover, that these four letters emanated from the Eternal City and were written about the same time is further made very likely from the following: (a) Timothy is associated with St. Paul in writing to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon; (b) Rome, the capital of the Empire, was the natural resort of the runaway slave from Colossse, Onesimus, whose meeting with St. Paul occasioned the letter to Philemon (Phlm. 10-12, 18); (c) in Ephesians 6:20, the Apostle calls himself an ambassador in chains, that is, a representative of Christ the King in the imperial city, but without honor; (d) he is free to preach and to receive all who come to him (Phlm. 7 ff., 24; Eph. 3:12, 6:19, 20; Phil. 1:12, 20 ff.; Acts 28:30, 31); (e) he expects an early release, and asks Philemon to make ready a lodging for him (Phil. 2:24; Phlm, 22); (f) Tychicus and Onesimus are together in bearing these three letters to Asia (Eph. 6:21 ; Col. 4:7-9; Phlm. 12, 22).

In view of these considerations there is nothing of moment to be said in favor of the opinion that the three letters last named were written during the Caesarean captivity (58-60 a.d.). The arguments just given favoring Rome would not fit Caesarea. Still less can be said in support of the opinion which makes Ephesus the place whence St. Paul wrote the Captivity Epistles (see Pope, Aids to the Study of the Bible, vol. III., p. 160).

As to the order of these four Epistles, it is evident from what has been said above that those to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon are not to be separated; but whether the Colossian Epistle preceded or followed the composition of that to the Ephesians cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, though it is clear that both were carried from Rome at the same time by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). Nor can it be decided whether the letter to the Philippians was the first or the last of these four Captivity Epistles.

With regard to their general contents Dr. Voste, O.P., very appropriately remarks that “there is nothing in the whole New Testament which so nearly approaches the doctrinal and mystical sublimity of the Fourth Gospel as do these Epistles. There is the same loftiness of dogmatic and ethical teaching, the same marvelous boldness of expressions, the same divine revelation of the union of the faithful with Christ or of the branches with the vine, and finally the same glorification of the love and person of Christ. John, the beloved disciple, has revealed to us the glory of the Word made flesh; Paul, rapt to the third heaven, has made known to us the glory of Christ exalted on high. And then, also, it was that the Apostle described this sublimity when, like the exile of Patmos, he was an ambassador in chains for Christ; when, like Stephen the First Martyr when being stoned to death, he saw the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Ep. ad Eph., Introd., pp. 6, 7).

The style and manner of treatment in these Captivity Epistles is very different from that in St. Paul’s previous letters—Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. In those great Epistles the Apostle was at the height of his career; he was founding Churches; he was unfolding his great revelations; he was defending his authority and his teachings; he was in the thick of the battle. In these letters his work is mostly done; he is quietly surveying the fruits of his many labors, and is only anxious that they may be preserved. He is now reflective, meditative, and on the whole at peace in his mind.

His surroundings are also very different here. Formerly he was writing from Greek cities, with their individualistic outlook and cultured environment; but now he is writing from Rome, the centre of the great empire, with its worldwide outlook and its emphasis upon the family, the community, the state, and the race. Hence, Paul’s vision assumes a wider range here—especially in Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians—taking in the whole world and uniting all men of all time under the universal sovereignty of Christ. Christ, the King, and His universal Church are uppermost in the Apostle’s mind in these letters.

2. Ephesus. Situated on the great highway of trade between the East and the West, and under Roman rule the capital of Proconsular Asia, Ephesus was one of the most important cities of ancient times. It was to the province of Asia what Corinth was to Greece, what Antioch was to Syria, and what Alexandria was to Egypt. It was built on the Cayster River only about three miles inland from the Ægean Sea, and was the sea terminal of the great trade route which extended eastward, up the valley of the Maeander to that of the Lycus, and thence to central Asiatic and far eastern points. Miletus was indeed the natural terminus and seaport of the road which, from central Asia Minor and eastern lands, led down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander to the West, but the journey was shortened some thirty miles by a pass only six hundred feet high over the mountains from the Maeander to Ephesus. Moreover, during later centuries, and especially under the Romans, the silt carried down by the Maeander seems to have been permitted to spoil the harbor of Miletus, thus giving Ephesus undisputed supremacy as the seaport of Proconsular Asia until, in course of time, a similar fate befell the port of Ephesus through the alluvium which the Cayster deposited at its mouth. Even in St. Paul’s age the channel between Ephesus and the sea had to be cleaned out repeatedly, but later, after the sway of Rome had passed away, it was allowed to fill up and become a mere marsh, and the glory of Ephesus as a port and the great coastal terminal of trade from Central Asia and eastern countries ceased to exist and became a mere matter of the past.

In the days of its prosperity the trade and wealth of Ephesus were augmented also by the coast-line ships from north and south, and by the vast numbers of visitors who were passing from Rome to the East or from the Orient to the West, as well as those who came to the city to worship at the shrine of Diana, to enjoy the Roman festivals, and to assist at the public games and shows. For, as already said, Ephesus was the principal seaport of the Roman province of Asia and the roads from the interior all converged there, thus making it most easily accessible for land travelers. Just outside the city stood the marvelous Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the seven wonders of the world, and on the western side of Mt. Coressus was the largest theatre of the Hellenic world, open to the sky, and capable of accommodating 50,000 spectators; while a little to the north was situated the Stadium or Race Course where the public games and fights were exhibited.

The road from Ephesus to the east up the valley of the Cayster was too steep and precipitous for commercial purposes, but, as it was considerably shorter than the lower and more level route down the valleys of the Lycus and the Masander, foot-passengers, like St. Paul, naturally preferred it. Hence, the Apostle going on foot from Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus would follow the higher, though steeper, Cayster route; and this is why he seems never to have visited Colossse and Laodicea, which were on the main highway of trade down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander.

3. The Church of Ephesus. Being so situated, the terminal of trade and travel from Asia and the East westward, and as the Asiatic port for commerce and travelers from the West to the East, Ephesus was naturally sought by St. Paul as a centre from which his preaching and missionary activities should radiate. Already at the outset of his second great journey (51 a.d.) he seems to have had Ephesus in mind as his goal, but being “forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6), he passed through Mysia over to Troas, and from there to Neapolis and Philippi, and then down through Macedonia and Greece (Acts 16:11-18:18). But at the close of that missionary journey, on his way from Greece to Syria, he paid a brief visit to Ephesus, leaving there, as he proceeded back to the East, Aquila and Priscilla whom he had brought thither, and promising to return later himself (Acts 18:18-21).

Accordingly, on his third missionary journey (55-58 A.D.), St. Paul, after visiting the Churches previously founded in Galatia, came directly to Ephesus by way of the “upper coasts,” that is, following the Cayster valley route (Acts 19:1). The seed planted there on his first brief visit and nourished to some extent by the efforts of Aquila and Priscilla, aided for a time by Apollo, had already produced a little fruit in the establishment of a small group of catechumens who had received only the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-3). These St. Paul at once instructed and baptised, imposing hands upon them and thus endowing them with the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 19:4-7). Then entering the synagogue where he had preached on his first visit to Ephesus, “he spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting concerning the Kingdom of God,” until, forced by the opposition of some of his Jewish hearers, he made “the school of one Tyrannus” his place of worship and instruction (Acts 19:8-9). In this new abode he continued his spiritual labors for two whole years, discoursing every day and proving by miracles the divinity of his doctrine and claims, with the grand result that great numbers embraced the faith in Ephesus, the magical practices in honor of Diana were exposed as frauds, and the Gospel was heard by both Jews and Greeks throughout the whole province of Asia (Acts x19:10-26). It seems that St. Paul himself remained in Ephesus all the time (Acts 20:18), but his influence and efforts were extended by co-workers, like Epaphras and Tychicus of Colossse, and by the multitudes who came to Ephesus for various purposes, and, having heard the glad tidings of the new religion, carried them back to their homes. Although his personal work in Ephesus was nearly finished and he was contemplating an early visit to Macedonia and Corinth (1 Cor 16:5 ff.), the Apostle’s stay was somewhat shortened by the tumult raised by the silversmith Demetrius and his craftsmen; whereas he had intended to prolong his labors in that fruitful field until Pentecost, and then go to Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 19:21 ff.; 1 Cor 16:8-9).

On his way from Corinth back to Syria at the close of his third missionary journey (58 a.d.), St. Paul, unable to spare the time for a visit to Ephesus itself, halted at Miletus on the coast of Caria (Acts 20:15), some thirty miles southwest of Ephesus, and called thither the ancients of the Church of Ephesus, and addressed to them the solemn discourse of which St. Luke has given us the substance in Acts 20:18-35—which discourse is at once an indication of the strong and flourishing condition of the Ephesian Christian community and of St. Paul’s abiding interest in and affection for the Church there.

The next mention of Ephesus in connection with St. Paul is in the Pastoral Epistles, written towards the end of the Apostle’s life. In 1 Tim. 1:3 ff., we read that Paul exhorted Timothy to remain at Ephesus as head of that Church to teach and to correct, while he himself went to Macedonia; and in the Second Epistle to Timothy, written during the Apostle’s last imprisonment in Rome and shortly before his death, ‘he recalls the kindness of the Ephesian Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 2:18), and says he has sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).

Ephesus is mentioned twice in later Apostolic history, namely, in Rev 1:11; 2:1. There it was, after Timothy had passed, that St. John the Evangelist, as Bishop of that see, spent his declining years and wrote his Gospel and Epistles; there he was heard by Polycarp, Ignatius Martyr, and Papias; and there he died and was buried about the close of the first century of our era.

The Church of Ephesus continued to exercise a great influence for many centuries. It was the scene of the Ecumenical Council of 431 and of the “Robber Synod” of 449, and at the end of the fourth century its Bishop bore the title of Exarch or Grand Metropolitan of Asia. Ultimately, however, the primacy of Asia was taken over by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Christian community of Ephesus gradually declined with the rest of the city its present desolate state of a small Turkish village.

4. To Whom Ephesians Was Addressed. It is extremely difficult to decide for whom this letter was destined. A great variety of opinions have been advanced, the merits of all of which it is neither possible nor useful to discuss here. Hence we shall confine ourselves to those which seem most likely, and which are or have been most generally held.

According to tradition this Epistle was intended for the faithful of the city of Ephesus, which St. Paul visited at the close of his second missionary journey and where he spent over two years on his third journey. In favor of this opinion we have: (a) the testimony of all extant Manuscripts containing St. Paul’s Epistles, which—with the exception of the Vatican (B), the Sinaitic (S), the cursive 67, and that of Mt. Athos recently found—read ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (at Ephesus) in Eph 1:1; (b) the title given this Epistle by every known MS., which has “To the Ephesians”; (c) the most ancient versions, going back to the middle of the second century, which follow the MSS. in reading “at Ephesus” in 1:1, and which therefore seem to indicate that this reading was already old when they were made; (d) the Muratorian Fragment in Rome, St. Irenaeus in Gaul, Tertullian in Africa, and Clement in Alexandria. These Fathers appear to have held the Ephesian destination of this letter on the authority of tradition, and not on the evidence of the MSS. before them. Thus it seems that, at the end of the second century, tradition was wellnigh unanimous in affirming that this letter was written for the faithful of Ephesus. Internal evidence, however, in support of this ancient opinion is, practically speaking, entirely lacking.

Against the Ephesian destination we have: (a) the indirect and negative testimony of the four MSS. referred to above, two of which are the oldest and best in existence, going back to about the middle of the fourth century; (b) Marcion, about the middle of the second century, who said this letter was addressed to the Laodiceans, and who, since he could have had no dogmatic reason for saying so, may have been guided by some ancient codex which read this way; (c) Tertullian, who, arguing against Marcion for the Ephesian destination, was influenced only by tradition, making no reference to the words “at Ephesus” in 1:1, which must therefore have been absent from the MSS. known to him; (d) Origen, St. Basil, and St. Jerome, from whose writings we see that the phrase “at Ephesus” in 1:1 was lacking in the MSS. they made use of. With regard to the argument from Marcion, just given above, we are not obliged to believe that he had before him a codex which read “to the Laodiceans,” for his opinion may have been based only on the reference in Colossians to a letter at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). However, all this external evidence seems to show, at least, that the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ of verse 1 of this Epistle are not authentic, and consequently do not prove anything for the Ephesian destination of the letter.

Internal evidence is strongly opposed to an Ephesian destination. For example, (a) this Epistle has no personal greetings of any kind, which is nearly impossible to understand if Paul was writing to Ephesus where he had lived and labored so long and so successfully; (b) the tone of the letter is formal and distant, terms of familiarity and endearment (like “beloved” and “brethren”), being entirely absent; (c) there is no allusion to the Apostle’s previous relations with his readers (as in Thess., Gal., Corinth., etc.), but, on the contrary, he seems to be unknown to the recipients of this Epistle, he has only heard of their faith (Eph 1:15), they have perhaps heard of the ministry committed to him (Eph 3:2 ff.), and he hopes they have been taught aright regarding Christ (Eph 4:20-21). We cannot imagine St. Paul addressing the Ephesians, either exclusively or inclusively, in this manner; and hence it seems to us that not only was this letter not addressed solely to the faithful of Ephesus, but it also could not have been written to any group of Churches which would include Ephesus.

If, therefore, we are to follow the theory commonly accepted nowadays (namely, that this was a Circular Epistle addressed to a number of Christian communities in Asia Minor), we ought to exclude the Church at Ephesus, and perhaps confine ourselves to the faithful of Laodicea and Hierapolis. But here again we encounter difficulties. Since these cities were only a few miles from Colossae, and must therefore have been affected by the same errors as endangered the faithful to whom Colossians was sent, it is hard to see why two letters so different in tone and object should have been directed to readers so near together and so similarly circumstanced. We admit, of course, that this objection has weight only in the supposition that Ephesians was addressed exclusively to the Churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis, and not to a group of Churches of which those two were only a part. If then we hold that we have here a Circular Epistle, and yet exclude the Church at Ephesus for the reasons given at the end of the preceding paragraph, and also the Churches at Laodicea and HierapoHs because of their nearness to Colossae, what group of Churches unknown to St. Paul shall we designate as readers of this letter? In reply it must be observed, first of all, that it seems next to certain that the readers addressed by this Epistle were living in Asia Minor somewhere and not too far from Colossae, since Tychicus was the bearer of this Epistle and of that to the Colossians at one and the same time. Arguing thus, some scholars have concluded that this letter was written for that rather isolated group of Churches in northeastern Asia Minor, near the Black Sea, to which St. Peter addressed his first letter (1 Pet. 1:1). The Ephesian designation given the letter, we are told, was due to the fact that, when the official collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was prepared some time in the second century, the copy which had been made at Ephesus when Tychicus first arrived there with the original from Rome, and which naturally bore the inserted reference to that central Church of Asia, was the one that was chosen for the Canon and that was copied generally in subsequent codices (cf. Ladeuze, Cath, EncycL, vol. V, pp. 487, 488; Revue Bihliquc, 1902, pp. 573-580.) This conjecture is worth some reflection, but one may well ask why St. Paul sent the crown of all his Epistles only to such a comparatively insignificant body of the faithful.

In view of the unsatisfactory character of the conclusions so far arrived at touching the destination of this letter, perhaps it is best after all to hold with the majority of modern scholars that we have in Ephesians a circular letter written to the various Churches of Asia Minor, including Ephesus, Laodicea and Hierapolis, and that the impersonal tone and distant, formal character of the Epistle are to be explained by the very fact that so many of the faithful were addressed, not a few of whom were strange and unknown to the Apostle. Along with this opinion the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (at Ephesus) which are found in so many MSS., can be explained quite reasonably as in the preceding paragraph.

The opinion of Harnack, however, which Fr. Knabenbauer regarded as not improbable and which Dr. J, M. Voste, O.P., adopts in his learned work on Ephesians, deserves our serious consideration. The opinion goes back to Marcion’s view that our Epistle was addressed to the Laodiceans. We give here a summary of Dr. Voste’s reasoning on this theory.

In the first place, the best text of verse i of this Epistle seems to be defective, as if the name of a city which ought to be in it had dropped out or had been purposely omitted. After the words τοῖς οὖσιν (who are) we should expect a noun, as in Rom. 1:7 τοις ουσιν εν ρωμη (to all in Rome), and in Phil. 1:1 τοις ουσιν εν φιλιπποις (to all in Philippi); (cf. also 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; Col. 1:2). Therefore, it is concluded that verse 1 of Ephesians ought to read: τοις ουσιν εν λαοδικεια (to those that are at Laodicea, etc.). The phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea), we are told, was in time suppressed because of the unworthiness which later crept into the Church of Laodicea, and to which St. John refers in Rev 3:14-19; but that it belongs there and that this Epistle was consequently directed to the Laodiceans is further made probable by the following references to the Church at Laodicea in the Epistle to the Colossians:

1. “For I would have you know what manner of care I have for you and for them that are at Laodicea, and whosoever have not seen my face in the flesh” (Col. 2:1). Here we observe that, while speaking to the Colossians, only the Laodiceans are expressly named.

2. St. Paul says of Epaphras: “For I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). These three cities—Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis—were not far apart in the valley of the Lycus River.

3. The Apostle says to the Colossians: “Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house” (Col. 4:15). Here Hierapolis is not included.

4. Finally, the Apostle says: “And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans” (Col. 4:16). Here again there is question only of the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea, and both have received a letter from St. Paul.

As Dr. Voste goes on to observe here, it is manifest from the foregoing texts that the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea were intimately connected one with the other and in the heart of the Apostle. And hence it would a priori be very strange if, while the Epistle to the Colossians has been preserved, that to the Laodiceans should have been lost—all the more so, since, having been read at Colossae, most likely a copy of it would have been made by the Colossians That no copy of a letter so important as this one seems to have been should have come down to us, while that to the Church of Colossae and even the little personal letter to Philemon written at the same time have been preserved, borders on the incredible. But, on the other hand, if among the Epistles of St. Paul that we have there is one which, as regards time of composition and contents, is like our Epistle to the Colossians, though its traditional inscription gives rise to various hypotheses, there results great probability that this is the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Now, we have an Epistle to the Ephesians, written at the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians and in many ways very much like it, which seems certainly not to have been written to the Ephesians but to some other Church. The suspicion, therefore, naturally arises that this letter which now bears the title “to the Ephesians,” but which in the best MSS. and in ancient tradition appeared without any special inscription, is that lost Epistle of St. Paul’s which was sent to the Laodiceans. With this admission, we shall find no difficulty in the absence of salutations and of particular characteristics, because, as a matter of fact, the Laodiceans had never seen St. Paul, and, moreover, certain things in the Epistle to the Colossians, which was also to be sent to the Laodiceans, would pertain to the latter.

Hence, it seems very probable that our Epistle to the Ephesians in the beginning carried in its salutation the phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea) and that Marcion in the middle of the second century still read these authentic words in his text. We can account for the early suppression of the Laodicean designation, as said above, by the great corruption which invaded the Church of Laodicea towards the end of the first century (Rev 3:14-19), and which rendered it no longer worthy of so great a privilege and special distinction. This suppression would naturally be soon forgotten at large, and in course of time, when the collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was made, the illustrious name of Ephesus, the capital city of Roman Asia where St. Paul had lived so long, was substituted for the omission, in order to satisfy the grammatical construction ot the first verse of the letter, as well as to give to this glorious Epistle a complete and specific inscription, like those of St. Paul’s other letters. The fact that not all MSS. adopted the Ephesian inscription only proves that the Epistle had for long been known to lack the name of any special city or place.

The foregoing explanation is in substance the theory of Harnack as given by Dr. Voste in his work on Ephesians (Introduction, pp. 18 ff.) . As said above, this opinion was also accepted by Fr. Knabenbauer, S.J., as not improbable, and it has been followed by a number of non-Catholic exegetes. To us it seems very plausible, though not entirely free from difficulties. Perhaps it is open to fewer objections than any of the other explanations.

5. Authorship of Ephesians. This letter was circulated in the Church to some extent by the end of the first century, at the close of the second century it was in common use and widely known and it was always ascribed to St. Paul as its author. In fact, the authenticity of this Epistle was admitted without question by every ancient authority that can now be cited. Thus, the Muratorian Canon includes Ephesus among the Churches to which St. Paul wrote letters. St. Irenseus quotes Eph 5:30 as the words of “the blessed Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians.” Tertullian argues against Marcion for the Ephesian destination of this letter. Clement of Alexandria, Origen and St. Basil are equally explicit; and Eusebius includes this Epistle among the sacred writings which were admitted by the whole Church without hesitation.

It is even probable that we have an allusion to this Epistle in Col. 4:16, and a number of references to it in the First Epistle of St. Peter. For the latter compare Eph. 1:3-14 with 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:20 with 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 2:18-22 with 1 Pet. 2:4-6; Eph. 3:10 with 1 Pet. 1:12; Eph. 4:9 with 1 Pet. 3:19; Eph. 5:22-6:9 with 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7. There are also quotations from and allusions to this Epistle, or echoes of it, in the writings of St. Ignatius Martyr, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tatian, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and the Epistle of Barnabas.

Moreover, the heretics of the second century not only admitted that St. Paul was the author of this letter, but they even cited it as Sacred Scripture. Marcion, for example, included it in his Canon (cf. St. Epiphanius, Haer., xlii. 9), Valentine made use of it to justify his own doctrine (cf. St. Iren., Adv. Haer., i. 3, 8), Basilides did likewise (Philosoph., vii. 26), and other heretics likewise had recourse to it when they thought it served their purpose.

Among modern Rationalists and non-Catholic writers there are some who have doubted or denied the authenticity of our letter, but there is an equal if not a greater number who admit its genuineness, or incline towards it. In the former group are Schleiermacher, De Wette, Weizacher, Ewald, Baur, Holtzmann, Renan, Schwegler, Davidson, Cone, Moffatt, Dobschutz, Pfleiderer, Clemen, Scott, von Soden, etc.; whereas in the latter group we find such names as Weiss, Zahn, Shaw, Knowling, Lunemann, Lock, Robertson, Bacon, Schenkel, Salmon, Godet, Harnack, McGiffert, Howson, etc. Dr. Hort says he is sure that Ephesians bears “the impress of Paul’s wonderful mind.” Julicher appears to be uncertain.

One of the main reasons for suspecting the authenticity of this Epistle is based upon its similarity to Colossians, from which it is concluded that one or the other or both are the work of some falsifier, living perhaps early in the second century.

We may reply, in the first place, by freely conceding that the resemblances between these two letters are many and striking. For example, (a) the salutations are practically the same; (b) both have the same general structure; (c) in both the principal subjects and leading thoughts are much the same, the relations of Christ to His Church and to the Universe being the dominant thoughts in Ephesians and Colossians respectively; (d) there are many parallel passages, the same words, phrases and similitudes, and, in the practical part, the same counsels and exhortations. But are not these similarities just what we should expect in two letters written by the same author at about the same time to two Churches in practically the same spiritual condition and general environment? They are both Captivity Epistles (Eph. 6: 20; Col. 4:10), and Tychicus is the bearer of them both (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9), very probably to neighboring Churches known to him. Is it surprising, then, that both letters should discuss similar themes in a similar style?

In the second place, let it be observed that, while there are notable resemblances between Ephesians and Colossians, there are also marked differences. Thus, (a) Colossians is personal and concrete, Ephesians impersonal and general in application, (b) The former inclines to the controversial and polemical; the latter is poetical and mystical, and more Johannine than any other of the Pauline writings. “In Colossians Paul is the soldier, in Ephesians the builder” (Farrar). “Colossians is a letter of discussion, Ephesians of reflection. In the former we behold Paul in spiritual conflict, in the latter his soul is at rest” (Findlay). (c) The former is Christological, dealing with Christ’s relation to the universe; the latter is the ecclesiastical Epistle, treating of the relation between Christ and the Church. Under this last heading there are five passages in Ephesians which have no parallel in Colossians, namely, Eph 1:3-14, 4:4-16, 5:8-14, 5:22-33, 6:10-17. (d) There are twelve references to the Holy Ghost in Ephesians, and only one in Colossians; there are nine quotations from the Old Testament in the former Epistle, and none in the latter.

In view of the foregoing, it seems to us that no valid argument against the Pauline authorship of Ephesians can be drawn from the resemblances between that Epistle and Colossians. But our objectors find another difficulty in the style and diction of this letter, where, we are told, there are some forty strange words or expressions (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον = hapax legomenon) that do not occur elsewhere, either in the writings of St. Paul or in the whole New Testament; and some forty more which, while they are found elsewhere in the New Testament, are not to be found in St. Paul. Moreover, it is objected that the style here is dull and sluggish; that it is overtaxed with phrases, clauses, synonyms and qualifying epithets; and that it is lacking in the sharpness, vigor, and overpowering eloquence so characteristic of St. Paul. Hapax legomenon is a term employed by scholars to refer to words and phrases that appear only once or very rarely in a book or an author’s body of work.

In reply to the first difficulty it need only be said that peculiarities of expression may be found more or less in all the letters of St. Paul, and as frequently in those whose authenticity the Rationalists admit as in the others. Thus, for example, we find ninety-six ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (hapax legomenon) in the Epistle to the Romans; ninety-one in 1 Cor.; ninety-two in 2 Cor.; thirty-three in Gal.; thirty-six in Philippians, etc. On the other hand, it should be noted that this letter contains many words not found in the New Testament except in the writings of St. Paul, which is an additional, positive proof of its authenticity.

As regards peculiarities of style and composition, we can say that these are easily and satisfactorily explained by a consideration of the time, place, and conditions in which Paul wrote this letter, as well as the circumstances of the faithful to whom he addressed it. The Apostle was nearing the end of his eventful life; he was a prisoner in Rome, the central city of a vast empire, and he had leisure for meditation on the great mysteries that had been revealed to him. He was writing to Churches unknown to him, at least for the most part, with which he had no reason for discussion or controversy, but which he wished to remind of the spiritual treasures that were theirs. In language, therefore, which often takes on the qualities and proportions of a hymn of adoration he unfolds to his readers in this letter the wealth of sublime thoughts and reasonings that flooded his soul. It is not wonderful, then, that his language here becomes rich and overflowing, soaring up like a cloud of incense to the very throne of God. Paul was writing from his prison cell in Rome, but his heart and soul were with Christ in heaven; he was enchained to a Roman soldier, but his mind swept over the vast Roman domains and took in the conditions of all the Churches scattered throughout the Christian world; he was still bound to his earthly tabernacle, but his thoughts penetrated to the “heavenly places” and pondered the mystery, the plenitude, the light, the love, the peace and glory of the Godhead as revealed in Christ and made known to the Church.

There are few advocates today of the argument against the authenticity of this letter which Baur, Schwegler and other Rationalists based on the Epistle’s relation to the Gnosticism of the second century. First of all, it is well known now that the Gnosticism which was a developed system in the second century had its beginning and early growth in the time of St. Paul. On this point we need only consult Irenaeus (Adv. Har., i. 23), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., vii. 18), and Eusebius (Hist. EccL, ii. 13 ; iv. 7).

In the second place, it is altogether doubtful whether there is any allusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians to Gnosticism, as it appeared in the second century. It is far more likely, on the contrary, that the propagators of this heresy made deliberate use of some of the expressions of St. Paul in this letter to help the spread and acceptance of their own doctrines.

6. Date and Place of Composition. At the close of Paul’s third missionary journey, while he was fulfilling a vow in the Temple at Jerusalem, he was arrested by the Jewish authorities on a false charge (Acts 21:26 ff.) and carried away as a captive to Csesarea, where he was kept in prison for two years (Acts 23:23-24:27). At the end of this period, when the Roman Governor Festus was about to bring him to trial, the Apostle asserted his Roman citizenship and appealed to the tribunal of Cassar; and Festus, having heard Paul’s story and found him guilty of no crime, decided to send him to Rome (Acts 25:1-27). After making the long and perilous journey Paul with Luke finally arrived in the Eternal City and was there kept in prison two more years (Acts 27:1-28:31).

Now we shall assume that the Csesarean imprisonment occurred 58-60 A.D., that St. Paul set out from Caesarea for Rome in the autumn of 60 a.d., arriving in the latter city in the spring of 61 a.d., and that consequently the Apostle’s ensuing Roman captivity was from 61 to 63 A.D. We accept these years, not because they are certain or the only ones, but because they are just as probable as (if not a little more so than) any others that may be given. With these data premised, we ought not to find it difficult to fix the date and place of composition, not only of Ephesians, but also of the three other Captivity Epistles—Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon— on account of the very close relationship between these four letters.

As in the case of the three last-named Epistles, the Apostle was a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles when he wrote our letter (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20), and his imprisonment had lasted a considerable time (Eph. 3:1; 6:22). Our letter was carried to its destination by a certain Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), who was at the same time entrusted with a similar letter to be delivered to the faithful at Colossae (Col. 4:6), and who therefore was recommended to both these Churches in almost the same words. On this mission Tychicus was accompanied by Onesimus, a fugitive slave from Colossas, whom the Apostle was sending back with a letter of commendation to his master, Philemon, a well-to-do Christian of that city (Col. 4:7-9). From these clear indications it seems evident that Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written from the same place, during the same imprisonment, and therefore about the same time. But whether Rome or Csesarea was the place of Paul’s captivity at this time is still a disputed question, with the great weight of evidence pointing to Rome. For, if we examine the letter to the Philippians, we shall find that that Epistle was written either shortly before or shortly after these other three, while the Apostle was in the same imprisonment (Phil. 1:12 ff.), and that the indications are all Romeward. Thus the reference to the prsetorium in Phil. 1:13, the relations between Jewish and Gentile Christians as reflected in Phil 1:15-20, the mention of Caesar’s household in Phil. 4:22, the freedom to preach and teach which St. Paul enjoyed (Phil. 1:12; Eph. 6:23; cf. Acts 24:32 ff., 28:31 ff.), are all much more applicable to Rome than to Caesarea. Again, it must have been when St. Paul was in Rome that he was expecting a speedy release ( Phlm. 22), for surely he was not expecting a release from Caesarea that would soon enable him to visit Philemon in Colossae. Finally, the points of contact between these four Epistles and the Pastoral Epistles in phraseology, in Christology, in the stress laid on an organized Church and family life, etc., all indicate the later date, and so favor Rome, during the Apostle’s first captivity there between 61 and 64 A.D. (cf. Hastings, Dict, of The Bible, vol. I, p. 718).

In conclusion, then, we hold with the traditional opinion that not only Ephesians, but also Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, were written by St. Paul in the Eternal City, during his first Roman captivity (61-63 a.d.).

7. Occasion and Purpose. We have just seen that the Apostle was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this letter. Epaphras had brought him news of the dogmatic and moral errors that were springing up in the Church at Colossae and the neighboring cities. Perhaps the Apostle had been accused of a lack of interest In those Churches which he had not personally evangelized, and which had not seen his face (Col. 2:1-5). He had heard of the faith and charity of the “Ephesians,” and he was greatly pleased at this (Eph. 1:15-16); they also had heard of him and of his work among the Gentiles (Eph. 3:2 ff.).

While, therefore, dispatching Tychicus with a letter to the Colossians, St. Paul seized the opportunity to send this letter to those other Churches which he addressed in this Epistle, to remind them of their dignity as Christians and of the glorious life in Christ; to assure them that, though not evangelized by him, they were nevertheless members of the one vast Catholic Church which had been predestined before the ages to unite all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in one common brotherhood living the life of God ; to exhort them, consequently, to a higher activity and a greater unity in accordance with God’s eternal decrees and purposes for His Church; to warn them against the dangers of sin and possible errors which would imperil their divine life here on earth and their sublime prospects in the eternal life hereafter; and to stimulate them to ever greater efforts in the pursuit of virtue and in the fulfillment of their various duties. That such were the occasion and purpose of the letter to the “Ephesians” an analysis of its contents seems to show, as well as the hints that we can gather from the Epistle to the Colossians.

8. Argument and Division. In general, this Epistle consists of a brief introduction, in which St. Paul greets his readers in his usual manner (Eph 1:1-2); a dogmatic part, in which he discusses God’s eternal purpose, realized in Christ, of uniting all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in the one Church of Christ (Eph 1:3-3:21); a moral part, in which are outlined the duties incumbent upon the members of the Church in the Christian life (Eph 4:1-6:20); and a conclusion, containing some personal matters and a benediction (Eph 6:21-24). A more detailed analysis of the dogmatic and moral parts will help to a better understanding of the Epistle.

A. Dogmatic Part (Eph 1:3—3:21).—(a) A solemn act of thanksgiving to God for our union with Christ (Eph 1:3-14). In lyric fashion, the Apostle begins by recalling the divine benefits for which Almighty God from eternity has chosen and predestined us, that, namely, through the grace of Christ we should be His holy and adopted children (Eph 1:3-6). It was Christ, he says, who in time carried out the divine decree, redeeming us from our sins by His blood, and revealing to us the supreme mystery of God, which was to reconcile to Himself all things in Christ (Eph 1:7-10); for in Christ we have become God’s portion, both we Jews, who had the Messianic promises, and you Gentiles, who by faith have also received the Holy Ghost, the pledge of our eternal inheritance (Eph 1:11-14).

(b) A prayer that the Ephesians may understand the glories of being united to Christ in His Church (Eph 1:13-23). In a special manner the Apostle first thanks God for the faith and love which are already characteristic of the “Ephesians” (Eph 1:15-16). He then prays for a still greater outpouring of the Spirit upon them that they may realize their Christian dignity and their future glory, as well as the greatness of the divine power exerted in our behalf (Eph 1:17-19), and pre-eminently manifested in raising Jesus from the dead, and in making Him Lord of the universe and head of the Church, which is His mystical body (Eph 1:20-23).

(c) The Gentiles’ former heathen life and condition are contrasted with their present privileges in the Church of Christ (Eph 2:1-22). Formerly the “Ephesians” were dead in their sins, walking according to the course of this world and obeying the lusts of the flesh; but God out of pure mercy raised them from their miserable state to a participation in the resurrection and glorification of Christ, by whose grace we are saved (Eph 2:1-10). In order that the “Ephesians” may understand the greatness of the grace they have received, St. Paul bids them recall the state in which they were living before their conversion, and to contrast that with the exalted benefits they now enjoy through their union with Christ (Eph 2:11-13), who has broken down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles and has reconciled both the one and the other with the Father (Eph 2:14-18). Henceforth the “Ephesians” are admitted to full membership in the household of God and are made parts of His spiritual edifice (Eph 2:19-22).

(d) A renewed prayer that the “Ephesians” may know and appreciate the greatness of their Christian vocation (Eph 3:1-19). At the thought of the call of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, St. Paul breaks forth in an act of thanksgiving (Eph 3:1); but the very mention of the Gentiles causes him to interrupt his prayer and to digress upon the part his preaching and ministry have had in their admission into the Church (Eph 3:2-13). Resuming his prayer (Eph 3:14), the Apostle asks God out of the riches of His glory to give the “Ephesians” spiritual strength and the grace necessary to become perfect Christians (Eph 3:14-19).

(e) Doxology, which concludes the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle: Glory to God in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, the head of the Church, throughout all coming generations, to all eternity (Eph 3:20-21).

B. Moral Part (Eph 4:1-6:20).—(a) The general character of the Christian Ufe, as manifested in the diversity of gifts and functions  of the members of the Church within the one Church (Eph 4:1-16). The Apostle, bound a prisoner in the Lord, exhorts his readers to live a life worthy of their vocation in all charity, being careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-6). The diversity of the gifts of the Holy Ghost should not be an obstacle to unity, but rather a means of greater solidarity, because all the faithful are members of the one mystical body of Christ
(Eph 4:7-16).

(b) The contrast between the old life of paganism and the new life of Christianity (Eph 4:17-24). The “Ephesians” must live no longer as they did as pagans, in ignorance and impurity (Eph 4:17-19); but, putting away the old man according to the flesh, they must put on the new man according to God (Eph 4:20-24).

(c) Virtues required of all Christians (Eph 4:25-5:21). Our life and unity in Christ require that we refrain from the vices of lying, anger, etc., and practice the contrary virtues (Eph 4:25-32), that we be followers of God and imitators of Christ in our lives, avoiding the works of darkness and walking as children of light (Eph 5:1-14). Let us be truly wise, using well our time, fulfilling the will of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, etc. (Eph 5:15-21).

(d) Admonitions for special classes in the Church (Eph 5:22-6:9). After a general exhortation to obedience (Eph 5:21), the Apostle now takes up the duties of special classes in the Church, namely, those of wives and husbands (Eph 5:22-33), of children and parents (Eph 6:1-4), and of slaves and masters (Eph 6:5-9)—all of which duties are to be faithfully discharged for the sake of Christ and in Christ.

(e) The warfare of the Church (Eph 6:10-20). From a consideration of things pertaining to the internal welfare of the Church, St. Paul now turns to external needs and reminds his readers of the battles that must be fought against spiritual forces without. Each member of the Church must be prepared to do his part in this warfare, and his weapons must be those of God Himself.

So much for the Dogmatic and Moral Parts. The Conclusion, like the Introduction, has been noticed at the beginning of this section.

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