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Commentary on Ephesians 6:21-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018


These verses (Eph 6:21-22) occur almost verbatim in Col, 4:7-8.

Eph 6:21. But that you also may know the things that concern me, and what I am doing, Tychicus, my dearest brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make known to you all things:Eph 6:22. Whom I have sent to you for this same purpose, that you may know the things concerning us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
You also. This phrase is understood to imply that Tychicus had visited others before delivering this letter to its readers, namely, the Colossians, and consequently it is concluded that the letter to the Colossians was written before this one.

Tychicus was a native of Asia Minor, perhaps of Ephesus (Acts 20:4; 2 Tim. 4:12). His name is found in inscriptions of Asia Minor and Rome, on coins of Magnesia, thirteen miles from Ephesus, and of Magnesia by Mt. Sipylus, where the Bishop of Ephesus now resides, thirty-eight miles from his titular see (see Hitchcock, Ephesians, p. 506; Lightfoot, Colossians, p. 234).

Whom I have sent, an epistolary aorist.

Concerning us, i.e., Paul and his companions in Rome. 

That he may comfort your hearts, distressed by my imprisonment, and perhaps impending death.


Eph 6:23. Peace be to the brethren and charity with faith, from God the Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph 6:24. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption. Amen.

Contrary to his custom St. Paul gives his benediction to third persons, “brethren,” instead of second persons, “you.”

With faith goes back to “charity,” by which it is informed, and to “peace,” which is its fruit, as a gift from the Holy Ghost. The single preposition before “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” shows that both constitute the common source of supernatural peace and charity.

With all them that love is a circumlocution for “saints,” and it occurs only here.

In incorruption. Literally, “in incorruptness,” i.e., with an enduring, immortal love; the expression refers back to “love.” The weight of evidence seems to be against the retention of “Amen” here, though it makes a fitting close to so glorious an Epistle.

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Commentary on Ephesians 6:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018


In these verses the Apostle continues his instruction on Christian submission, begun at Eph 5:21. Having spoken of the mutual duties of husbands and wives, he now goes on to consider those of children and parents (Eph 6:1-4), and of servants and masters (Eph 6:5-9). Children must obey their parents (Eph 6:1-3), and parents must lovingly instruct their children in the discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Similarly, let servants be obedient to their masters as to Christ, remembering that they will receive a reward from God (Eph 6:5-8); and, on the other hand, let masters be kind to their servants, reflecting that they themselves are servants of Christ, and that there is in heaven one Lord of all who will judge all in justice and equity (ver. 9).

Eph 6:1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is just.

Obey your parents, etc. The Apostle is speaking to Christian children and parents, but of course his words have a wider application.

In the Lord. These words restrict the obedience of the children and the commands of the parents to things in harmony with the law of God, and they also indicate that the obedience of children should be prompted by a supernatural motive. From this we may infer the practice of infant baptism in the Apostolic Church, because the Apostle seems to take it as understood that the children of Christian parents were already baptized, therefore “in the Lord.” The supreme example and model of such obedience was given by our Lord Himself (Luke 2:51): “For this is just,” i.e., dictated by nature and in conformity with the divine commands.

Eph 5:2. Honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with a promise:

The first part of this verse and verse 3 are from Ex 20:12, and Deut. 5:16, verbatim according to the LXX.

Which is the first, etc., i.e., (a) the first in the Second Table of the Law, for the First Table contains the commandments that pertain to God, the Second those that pertain to men (Ambrosiaster); or (b) the first in dignity or the principal commandment, having a promise annexed, which is immediately given. This is the principal commandment for children, as comprehending the rest (Voste). The clause, therefore, simply means: this is the principal commandment for you children, and it has a promise attached to it, as you can see from the words that follow.

Eph 6:3. That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest he long-lived upon earth.

These words of the Old Law refer directly to the promised land of Palestine, but indirectly to heaven, of which Palestine was a figure. It is to be observed regarding this promise that, since our earthly life is subordinated to the good of life eternal, even obedient children are sometimes taken away by premature death lest they should be contaminated by a wicked world (Wis. 4:10-11), while bad children not infrequently enjoy length of days in order that they may turn from an evil life and be saved.

Eph 6:4. And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger; but bring them up in the disciphne and correction of the Lord.

And you, fathers, etc. The “you” here and in ver. 9 (Vulgate, vos) is not expressed in the Greek. The father is mentioned as head of the family, but the mother’s authority is included with that of the father because of the oneness of husband and wife, as explained above. The Apostle means to say that, while children should be obedient to parents, the latter ought to show themselves worthy of obedience, not by rigorous domination but by just and gentle persuasion. And this applies to all superiors, who should be guided in the control of others by justice and charity, instead of being blinded by authority, which they at times unjustly exercise,ignorant or forgetful of this full-meaning verse of St. Paul.

The discipline, etc., refers to moral formation in general according to the will of Christ, and not according to one’s own ideas, regardless of the expressed divine will. Parents are stewards of Christ as regards their children, and therefore are seriously bound to exercise in this capacity a faithful stewardship by word and example. See Col. 3:20-21 for a parallel passage.

Eph 6:5. Servants, be obedient to them that are your lords according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart, as to Christ:
Eph 6:6. Not serving to the eye, as it were pleasing men, but, as the servants of 
Christ doing the will of God from the heart,
Eph 6:7. With a good will serving, as to the Lord, and not to men.
Eph 6:8. Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man shall do, the same shall 
he receive from the Lord, whether he be bond, or free.

In these verses St. Paul is admonishing “servants” (literally, “slaves”) to render to their human masters a conscientious and respectful service which has its motive, not in personal or outward advantage, but in a sincere desire to please their spiritual Lord and Master, Christ, to whom their earthly lords are subordinated; and which further looks forward with the eyes of faith to the heavenly reward which Christ, the supreme Master and just Judge of us all, will render to each one, “whether he be bond, or free.”

Eph 6:9. And you, masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatenings, knowing that the Lord both of them and you is in heaven; and there is no respect of persons with him.

The Apostle now admonishes masters to be animated by the same supernatural motives toward their servants, seeing in them the person of Christ and being kind and merciful to them, mindful at all times that there is in heaven one Judge of all, slaves and masters, Jesus Christ, who cares nothing for the titles and positions of men, but will reward or punish according to the works each one has done while in the flesh: we are all slaves of Christ, our common divine Master, and all must appear before His judgment seat.

In this section, verses 5-9, it is worthy of note that St. Paul is not speaking of the rights of slaves and masters respectively, but of the obligations incumbent on each class of doing their respective duties, one to the other: it is duties, not rights, that the Apostle is emphasizing. For parallel passages see Col. 3:22—4:1; 1 Cor. 7:20-24.

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Commentary on Ephesians 5:22-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

A Summary of Ephesians 5:22-33

So far in this Chapter the Apostle has been giving general precepts regarding all Christians, but here he begins to treat of those that pertain to particular states, taking up the duties of wives and husbands in the remaining verses of this Chapter (Eph 5:21-33), and continuing in the first nine verses of the following Chapter  with a consideration of the duties of children and parents and servants and masters respectively (Eph 6:1-9). It is worthy of note that in each class the Apostle starts with the subordinate member(s) and concludes his admonition with a precept or precepts for the leading member(s), speaking first to wives and then to husbands, first to children and then to parents, first to servants and then to masters. In each particular case the spirit of Christ is to be the ruling principle; all precepts are to be obeyed in Christ and for Christ, who is the head of the mystical body of which Christians are the members. Thus, wives are to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph 5:22), children are to obey their parents in the Lord (Eph 6:1), servants are to obey their temporal masters in the Lord (Eph 6:5). On the other hand, husbands should love their wives as Christ has loved the Church (Eph 5:25, 28, 33), parents are to bring up their children in the discipline and correction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), masters must remember that there is the same Lord for all (Eph 6:9). See Voste, op. cit., hoc loco. This section of our Epistle on domestic duties has a close parallel in Col 3:18-4:1.

It was a revolutionary doctrine that St. Paul taught in this section of the present letter, as also in the corresponding section of the Epistle to the Colossians. He was writing to a strange mixture of Greeks, Phrygians, Romans, Jews, and the like—all converts to Christianity, but subject to and influenced by Roman rule. Up to then women had been in a state of subordination and subjection little better than dire servitude. In the Roman family the father was the head who ruled with absolute and often tyrannical authority over the wife, the children, and the slaves. His power was practically unlimited in the domestic circle, and he exercised it at times by punishing, torturing, and even putting to death his children and slaves, often for only trivial reasons; the wife fared but little better than her children. Nor did Christian teaching effect much change for the better in this severe discipline, generally speaking, until long after the time of St. Paul. Under Antonius Pius (138-161 a.d.) masters were made liable to accusation for the death of their slaves: the potestas manus of the husband over his wife finally ceased under Constantine and the other Christian emperors; and under Valentinian and Valens (about 364-375 a.d.) the chastisement of children was restricted. Therefore, in asking consideration for wives, children, and slaves, St. Paul had to proceed very cautiously, reminding them of their duties first, so as not to produce an unfavorable reaction to the teaching he wanted to give also to husbands, fathers, and masters. These latter had to be weaned away gradually from their pagan principles and customs, and imbued slowly with the new and lofty doctrines of Christianity, illustrated by the example of Christ. See Hitchcock, op. cit., hoc loco, 22-23.

Eph 5:21. Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.

In this verse the Apostle inculcates Christian submission. In grammatical form the verse goes with the preceding, but in substance it belongs to what follows, because with these words the Apostle turns to the discipline of the home, assigning as the motive of our submission, one to another, “the fear of Christ” (i.e., reverence for Christ), who is to be our future judge. At the end of verse 20 there should be only a comma in the Vulgate.

Eph 5:22. Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord:

Be subject. These words are not in the best Greek MSS., but they are to be supplied from the preceding verse to complete the sense. If St. Paul requires wives to be obedient to their husbands, he is not less insistent on the husband’s duty to love and protect his wife (verse 25, 28, 33), and on the perfect spiritual equality between wife and husband (Gal 3:28). The wife is to be obedient to the husband in Christ, and the husband’s headship is to be one of love, modeled on the headship of Christ over the Church.

Eph 5:23. Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of the body.

The saviour, etc. Christ is not only the head of the Church, but He is also its “saviour,” i.e., literally its “deliverer,” “preserver,” by His passion and death. In like manner, therefore, the husband is bound to love, govern, protect and defend his wife.

The eius of the Vulgate in verse 23 is not expressed in the Greek, but is required by the sense. See 1 Cor 11:3.

Eph 5:24. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.

In all things. The Apostle is speaking to Christians, and he is supposing the husband’s relation to his wife to be like the relation of Christ to the Church; and consequently he is supposing the husband will not command or require of his wife anything that is not right and according to the law of God.

Eph 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it,

Verses 22-24 were addressed mainly to wives, but In verses 25-33 St. Paul speaks directly of the obligations of the husband. Having treated first, though briefly, of the obligations of the wife, he is now in a better position to dwell on the duties of husbands, and this at greater length, as it was more needed. To the wife he proposed the Church as a model, and now to husbands he will hold up Jesus Christ as a model and a pattern according to which they should regulate their treatment of and their dealings with their wives. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ has loved His Church, and they are to prove their love for their wives by sacrifice as Christ proved His love for the Church by delivering Himself up in sacrifice for It. The Church as a whole is here substituted for its members.

Eph 5:26. That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word,

In this and the following verse the Apostle will now give the effect and purpose of Christ’s love and sacrifice for the Church, which were that He might cleanse and sanctify it by the washing of Baptism, that He might present it to Himself as a glorious spouse, and that it might live and continue holy and without blemish in His sight.

Sanctify . . . cleansing. Both these verbs are in the aorist in Greek, and hence do not signify distinct intervals of time; cleansing from sin and sanctifying are one and the same act and process, or rather the negative and positive aspects respectively of the same act.

The laver of water refers to the water of Baptism, “the laver of regeneration, etc.” (Titus 3:5), the figure being taken from the bath of the bride before marriage among the Greeks.

In the word. Better, “accompanied by the word,” i.e., accompanied by the verbal formula which gives specific meaning to the water. The water thus becomes the matter, and the word or utterance becomes the form of the Sacrament of Baptism. With less probability of correctness some interpret “word” here of the preaching of the Gospel, or of faith, or of the profession of faith.

The vitæ (of life) of the Vulgate Is not expressed in Greek. The Vulgate text reads: “That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life”.

Eph 5:27. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.

That he might present, etc. Our Lord cleansed and purified the Church as a bride for Himself, and arrayed her in a glory which St. John exhausts symbolism to describe in Rev 19:7 ff., Rev 21-22. This sanctification of the Church is going on here on earth, but its completion and perfection are reserved for the life to come.

Eph 5:28. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.
Eph 5:29. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church:

The Apostle now applies to husband and wife what he has just said about Christ and the Church.

So, i.e., in the same manner; as Christ loved the Church in order “that He might present it to Himself holy and without blemish,” so should the love of husbands for their wives have in view their sanctification; and as Christ loves the Church as His mystical body, so husbands should love their wives as being one flesh with them, as constituting one body with them, of which the husband is the head. The Apostle does not say: “Let husbands love their wives as they love their own bodies, but because wives are to husbands as their own bodies” (Voste).

He that loveth his wife loveth himself, and the reason is that the wife is one with the body of the husband. From this it naturally follows that a man should love his wife as he loves himself, as another self; and since it would be unnatural for anyone under normal conditions to hate his own body and to be wanting in love and care for it, so would it be unnatural for a man not to love and care for his wife. Again the analogy of Christ enforces the argument.

No man ever hated, etc. The body is not to be hated or neglected, except when it gets in the way of a higher good.

Eph 5:30. Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

Here the Apostle passes from the impersonal to the first person plural, showing that the Church of which he has been speaking means its members, the Christians themselves; and hence the reason why Christ so loves the Church is that we Christians constitute it, as members of His mystical body.

Of his flesh, etc. These words are wanting in the best MSS., and are doubtless a gloss introduced from Gen 2:23.

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

This verse repeats Gen 2:24 according to the LXX, and shows the intimate union that exists between married persons, and how intimate consequently the love between them ought to be (cf. Matt 19:5-6). The verse is a Scripture proof of what the Apostle has just said above in verses 28 and 29.

The suam (his) of the Vulgate has no support in the Greek; and in corne una (to come together) should be in carnem unam (into one flesh), as in the Greek, meaning “unto one flesh,” i.e., as one flesh.

Eph 5:32. This is a great sacrament ; but I speak in Christ and in the church.

This is a great sacrament. Better, “This mystery is great,” i.e., a secret of the divine plan beyond the reach of unaided natural powers. What is this mystery or divine secret? It is the mystical or spiritual signification implied in conjugal union as created by God, by which marriage became a type and figure of the union between Christ and His Church. The mere union of man and woman in marriage is no mystery; the mystery is in what that union, as created by God, signifies and typifies, and that is the union between Christ and His Church. Therefore the Apostle says, “but I speak, etc.,” i.e., I speak with reference to Christ and His Church. Thus, the intimate union of Christ with the Church was prefigured by the union of man and woman in marriage; and hence in a wide sense matrimony, according to the intention of the Holy Ghost, has always been, from the very beginning of human kind, a sacrament, i.e., sign of a sacred thing. But while from the union between Adam and Eve were born children of man according to nature and in sin, from the mystical union of Christ and His Church are born children of God in grace; the human race is regenerated in the Holy Ghost. There is not, then, question in this passage of a Sacrament of the New Law in the strict sense (so Voste, hoc loco). The most we can say, therefore, is that the sacramental doctrine of marriage is implied in the Apostle’s argument, though it is not explicitly taught; and this is what the Council of Trent (sess. XXIV) means by the word innuit (“to hint at”, or “suggest”) which it employed to express St. Paul’s sacramental teaching in this Mssage.

Eph 5:33. Nevertheless let every one of you also in particular love his wife as himself: and let the wife reverence her husband.

Nevertheless. Better, “For the rest.” In conclusion the Apostle summarily repeats the precepts given above, asking each married man to love his wife as his other self (ver. 28) and each wife to reverence her husband in Christ (ver. 21).

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Commentary on Ephesians 5:1-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

Text in red are my additions. 

A Summary of Ephesians 5:1-21

This Chapter continues the thought of the preceding Chapter, and Eph 5:1-21-2 here really belong at the end of Chapter 4, with which they are so intimately connected (specifically with Eph 4:17-32). The Apostle has just been saying that his readers, in forgiving one another, should imitate God who has pardoned them for the sake of Christ; and now he continues that thought, and makes the further plea that in their relations with one another they should imitate the charity of Christ who gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for us all.

Eph 5:1-21 here, apparently having in view pagan pleasures and festivities, contain five commands mainly for self-guidance regarding Christian love, light, wisdom, gladness and submission, as Eph 4:25-32, contained five prohibitions regarding others.

Eph 5:1. Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children;

God is our Father and we are His adopted children, and so we ought to imitate Him in forgiving others as He has forgiven us; the more we imitate our Father, the more we become like Him, and consequently the more we are loved by Him.

Therefore connects this verse with the preceding Chapter.

Eph 5:2. And walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness.

The example of our Lord is now given as a motive for the exercise of fraternal charity.

Walk in love, i.e., let charity be the animating and governing principle of your lives, after the example of Christ who out of love for us delivered Himself up to the death of the cross for our salvation.

Loved us. The versions read thus, but a number of Greek MSS. have: “Loved you.”

An oblation and a sacrifice. The first word is more general, the second more particular in meaning. The term “sacrifice” can also stand for a bloody or an unbloody offering, and certainly the former is not to be excluded here where the sacrifice of our Lord is in question. The purpose of St. Paul here is to show the completeness of our Lord’s sacrifice, as being the antitype of both the bloody and the unbloody sacrifice. Very probably the Apostle is alluding in this passage to Ps.40:7, which is Messianic, and which is explicitly cited in Heb. 10:5.

An odor of sweetness is a sacrificial phrase taken from the Old Testament (Gen. 8:21 ; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17, etc.), and it simply means that the sacrifice was pleasing and acceptable to God.

Eph 5:3. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints:

From the sublime thoughts just enunciated the Apostle now descends to practical matters, and in verses 3-14 warns his readers against sins of the flesh and works of darkness, so characteristic of the pagan world. He has just been speaking of Christian love in a positive way, and now he will speak of it negatively, by forbidding sinful love, whether sensual or avaricious. Impurity and grasping self-assertion were central sins of paganism, and they are condemned by the Apostle in all their forms; not only are they not to be practised, they are not even to be named among Christians, who by their profession are consecrated to the God of holiness, purity, and justice.

Eph 5:4. Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks.

Likewise the “saints” are to avoid all obscene and filthy language, all foolish talk about immoral things, all jesting in the sense of depraved pleasantry, which serves no good purpose and is unbecoming; on the contrary, the mouths and tongues of Christians should be filled with the praises of their Creator and Redeemer, in thanksgiving for all His benefits.

Eph 5:5. For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

For know you this, etc., is according to the best Greek reading here, which may be translated as imperative or indicative. The Apostle is going to speak of something his readers know very well.

Fornicator, as here used, means also adultery and every illicit sexual union.

Unclean refers to private impurity.

Covetous person, i.e., inordinate lover of material wealth, a person who makes a god of his money.

Which is a serving of idols. There are other Greek readings of this clause, but that followed by the Vulgate is the most probable. Covetousness is a kind of real idolatry.

Hath inheritance, etc. Since the foregoing sinners serve illicit and perishable things in preference to the true God, they must perish with them, instead of sharing in the rewards of the elect of heaven.

Eph 5:6. Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief.

The Apostle warns his readers not to be deceived and led into error by any “vain” (i.e., empty and false) words or talk, regarding the sins he has just condemned; for because of those very sins the punishment of God “cometh,” i.e., visits now and will continue to visit in the future those rebellious ones who disobey and disregard His teachings as contained in the Gospel. Cf, Col. 3:6.

Eph 5:7. Be ye not therefore partakers with them.

Be not. Literally, “Become not,” sharers in their sins, else you will be sharers in their punishment

Eph 5: 8. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.

The Apostle now gives other reasons to show why the faithful ought to avoid the sins mentioned above (in verses 3-5). Before their conversion they were “darkness,” i.e., the very embodiment of moral ignorance and corruption; but now as Christians they embody “light,” possessing the truth of Him and living in union with Him who said: “I am the light of the world, etc.” (John 8:12 ff.). Their lives, therefore, ought to be in conformity with the knowledge and grace they have received. This and the two following verses constitute a parenthesis in which the Apostle is again contrasting (as in Eph 2:11-22 and Eph 4:17-24) the new condition of his readers with their old condition.

Eph 5:9. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth;

Fruit of the light. The Textus Receptus and some other lesser MSS. have: “fruit of the Spirit,” which is certainly not the best reading, as the context shows. It was doubtless introduced from Gal 5:22.

Is in, etc., i.e., consists in, etc.

Goodness is the quality by which a person Is good in himself and shows himself benevolent to others: it is opposed to anger (Eph 4:31).

Justice, as here used and in general, is the rectitude of moral acts, and in particular it is understood as the virtue which regulates our dealings with our neighbor; it is opposed to avarice (verse3).

Truth is the supreme rule of life, governing our obligations to ourselves, our neighbor, and God; it is opposed to lying (Eph 4:25). This verse is a parenthesis within the parenthesis of ver. 8-10. Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

Eph 5:10. Proving what is well pleasing to God:

Proving, etc., i.e., testing all things by the touchstone of God’s will and good pleasure, and conforming in our actions to the results thus ascertained.

To God should be “to the Lord,” according to the Greek, Thus, our Lord is here supposed to be God, because He is made the judge and norm of our actions: the judgment of the Lord is the judgment of God. The parenthesis closes with this verse, and the thought goes back to that of verse 7.

Eph 5:11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Here the Christians are warned not only to have no part in the sinful works of the pagans, but by their own good lives and example they are to register their disapproval of them. Perhaps their disapproval is to be expressed also in words, if necessary; but from the following verse it seems they are not even to speak of those works, if this can be avoided. The sinful practices of the pagans are said to be “unfruitful,” as being devoid of all merit for eternal life and deserving of eternal damnation; they are the opposite of the fruits of the light (ver. 9).

Eph 5:12. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.

The dark deeds here referred to are mentioned in Rom 8:13, St. Paul is alluding to certain nocturnal feasts and mysteries which the pagans celebrated with an idolatry and an immorality that were unspeakable,

Eph 5:13. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light.

The Apostle is telling his readers that, whereas they were formerly moral darkness because of their sins, they are now moral light in the Lord (ver. 8), and that the spiritual radiance now emanating from their good lives and example is able to convert the moral darkness of the gross paganism around them into moral light like themselves. Nothing can resist the influence and light of a truly holy life; spiritual light makes manifest sin and works of darkness, and turns them from darkness to light ; everything that is thus made manifest becomes light in its turn.

Eph 5:14. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that steepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Wherefore he saith. Who saith? It is difficult to determine. Many moderns think the Apostle is here referring to some ancient hymn or baptismal formula of the early Church, which was well known to the faithful. Others think he is citing some apocryphal work. With greater probability still others hold that we have here a free citation of Isa 60:: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, etc.” The application is clear: Let those who are asleep and dead in sin, arise, and they shall be enlightened by Christ, and thus enabled in their turn to shed their light on the pagan darkness around them.

Eph 5:15. See therefore how you walk circumspectly, not as unwise,
Eph 5:16. But as wise : redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Eph 5:17. Wherefore become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of the Lord.

15-17. The Apostle here tells his readers seriously to consider and watch what kind of life they lead in the midst of the pagans around them, that it may be, not the life of the unwise, but of the wise, as becomes those who are enlightened and instructed by divine grace and the light of the Gospel.

15. The fratres of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek. Note: the Vulgate reads: See therefore, brethren (fratres).

Circumspectly. Better, “accurately” or “carefully.” Whether we connect this adverb with “see” or with “walk” makes little if any difference as to the meaning of the verse, which is clear.

16. Redeeming the time, i.e., letting no opportunity slip by them of doing and saying what they could to further the cause of God (Lightfoot), This they were to do because of the evils and temptations and of the evil days in which they lived. They should make “the will of the Lord” their standard and their guide in all things.

17. The voluntas Dei (will of God) of the Vulgate should be voluntas Domini (will of the Lord) to agree with the Greek. Thus, the will of Christ is here made the supreme rule and norm of our actions, and consequently our Lord’s divinity is presupposed.

Eph 5:18. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the Spirit,

Another great sin of paganism was drunkenness, and St. Paul often speaks of it in his letters (see Gal 5:21; 1 Cor 5:11, 6:10; Rom 13:13; 1 Tim 3:3). An admonition against this sin was opportune after the warning against impurity in the first part of the Chapter; for drunkenness is a fruitful source of immorality of all kinds. St. Jerome says: “In vino luxuria, in luxuria voluptas, in voluptate immunditia est.”  I’m not certain but I think the basic sense of this is: wine leads to excess in sexual misconduct ant all uncleanness. Of course, per se, it is the excess in the use of wine that is sin and that causes sin, but from use to abuse in such matters the way is broad and easy, and many enter thereat, Instead of being filled with wine, the Apostle counsels his readers to be filled with the Holy Ghost and His graces, from which there will result a pure delight that leads, not to grief and sorrow, but to enduring joy and happiness.

The sancto (Holy) of the Vulgate, though supposed by the context, is not in the Greek. That the Holy Ghost is here meant, and not merely man’s spiritual nature, is further made plain by referring to the other passages in this Epistle where this same phrase occurs (1:22, 3:5, 6:18), and to the still more certain passages in other Epistles (1 Cor 12:3, 13; Rom 15:16). See also the parallel passage in Col 3:15-17. The Vulgate reads: “but be ye filled with the Holy (Sancto) Spirit.”

Eph 5:19. Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord;

If the Holy Spirit fills the souls of the faithful, it will be natural that the sacred exhilaration within them should burst forth “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles,” i.e., in instrumental and vocal music, arising not only from their lips, but also from their “hearts to the Lord.” This musical expression of fervor among the assembled early Christians is spoken of in Acts 4:24, 31, 16:25, and was referred to by Pliny in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, written between 108 and 114 a.d., when he said: “They [the Christians] are accustomed to meet before dawn on a stated day, and to chant to Christ, as to a God, alternately together” (Epist. x. 97). Of course, St. Paul here seems to be speaking of social gatherings rather than of liturgical services.

Eph 5:20. Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father,

According to his own custom, the Apostle now exhorts his readers ever to thank God “for all things,” both good and bad, because all have been ordained or permitted for the eternal good of the elect by the God who created us and the Father who sent Christ to redeem us; and this they were to do “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” our Mediator, through whom all our blessings come.

Eph 5:21. Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.

In this verse the Apostle inculcates Christian submission. In grammatical form the verse goes with the preceding, but in substance it belongs to what follows, because with these words the Apostle turns to the discipline of the home, assigning as the motive of our submission, one to another, “the fear of Christ” (i.e., reverence for Christ), who is to be our future judge. At the end of
verse 20 there should be only a comma in the Vulgate.

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Commentary on Ephesians 4:25-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

A Summary of Ephesians 4:25-6:9

The Apostle is now going to show In a practical way just what it means for Christians to have put on the new man; that is, he is going to apply more in detail to Christian life and conduct the principles he has laid down. He will treat first of precepts that are pertinent to all Christians, to Christian society in general (Eph 4:25—5:21), and then of precepts that regard particular members of the Christian family, that regulate the Christian home (Eph 5:22—6:9). In the remaining verses of the present Chapter he speaks of some of the principal vices which the mutual charity of Christians forbids, and of some of the virtues which that same charity enjoins upon the members of the Church. Please note that Eph 4:25-32 (the subject of this post) forms a unit within 4:25-6:9 but for some reason Fr. Callan gives no independent summary of it.

Eph 4:25. Wherefore putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Wherefore, i.e., since you have put off the old man and put on the new man who is characterized by justice and holiness, you must be on your guard against falling back into the sins of your former life; and first of all, you must put “away lying,” because this is so injurious to the neighbor, whom we are bound not to injure but to assist, as being all members of the one mystical body of Christ. Lying injures not only the neighbor, but oneself also, because we are all members of the same body, and that which injures one part of the body is felt in all the parts; the injury of the part reacts on the whole.

Eph 4:26. Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger;
Eph 4:27. Give not place to the devil.

Another sin to be avoided is unreasonable anger, that is, anger which springs from wounded personal feelings rather than from repugnance at something objectively wrong, or which is out of proportion to the objective harm done.

Be angry, and sin not. These words are from Ps. 4:5, cited according to the LXX. The meaning is: “If you have occasion to be angry, be careful that your anger does not become sinful.”

Let not the sun, etc. This is a proverbial expression, and it refers not to the anger but to that which caused the anger in question. The meaning is that the cause of anger should be removed and the offence given should be repaired as soon as possible. The Jewish day closed with the sunset.

Give no place to the devil. Excessive and prolonged anger affords an opportunity for the devil to act, and to excite in the soul feelings of hatred, revenge, and the like. To agree with the Greek, there should be no full stop at the end of verse 26, and verse 27 should read: “Neither give place, etc.”

Eph 4:28. He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need.

The next prohibition is not to steal; on the contrary, let those who through idleness or laziness were accustomed to steal as pagans, or are now stealing as Christians, do some good manual work as a remedy against this vice and as a means of earning something to be given to those in need, in reparation for goods ill-gotten in the past.

Stole is present tense in Greek, as if to imply that some among the Christians had not yet given up their pagan habit of stealing.

Eph 4:29. Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good, to the edification of faith, that it may administer grace to the hearers.

The Apostle now turns to the conversation of Christians, prohibiting foul speech of every kind, and enjoining “that which is good, etc.” (i.e., that which is calculated to edify the neighbor), so “that it may administer, etc.” (i.e., that it may be an occasion of grace to those who hear it).

Evil. Literally, “rotten,” which fitly described much of the talk that was common in heathen society.

To the edification of faith. Better, according to the authority of the best MSS., “to the building of the need,” i.e., as necessity requires, according to the demands of place, time, and person (St„ Jerome).

Grace here is understood by Theodoret to refer to that talk which is agreeable and acceptable to the hearers; but it is better to understand it in the ordinary Pauline sense of supernatural grace, which will also include the other meaning.

Eph 4:30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God: whereby you were sealed unto the day of redemption.

Another reason for avoiding foul speech is that the Holy Ghost may not be grieved, “whereby” (i.e., in whom and by whom) both the speaker and the hearer of polluting speech “were sealed” at the time of their conversion, when they received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, both of which were usually conferred together in the early Church.

Unto the day of redemption, i.e., until the general resurrection, when we shall take full possession of our redemption. See on Eph 1:14.

Eph 4:31. Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamor, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice.

In this final prohibition St. Paul strikes at the root of the different vices he has been enumerating: this root is “malice,” of which those other sins were the manifestations.

Bitterness is an aversion arising from prolonged anger; it is akin to sulkiness.

Anger is a transient outburst of passion, whereas indignation, or wrath, is a settled or chronic condition including the purpose of revenge.

Clamor, as here meant, is a violent and angry assertion of one’s real or supposed rights and wrongs.

Blasphemy is taken literally from the Greek, but it would be better to translate it in this passage by “reviling,” since there is question now of evil speech, not against God but against man.

Malice, i.e., malevolence or the desire to injure, is the root of the sins just mentioned. Compare the parallel passage in Col. 3:8.

Eph 4:32. And be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ,

The Apostle has just given some of the sins by which charity is wounded; so now he will mention some of the opposite virtues by which charity is preserved and exercised, adding the motive for the practice of these virtues. He would have his readers be “kind” (i.e., sweet and courteous to one another), “merciful” (i.e., tenderhearted), “forgiving” (i.e., ready to pardon one another’s oflFences), and all this because “God hath forgiven” (or better, “did forgive”) them at the time of their conversion, “in Christ” (i.e., through the merits of Christ). See parallel passage in Col. 3:12-13.

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Commentary on Ephesians 4:17-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

Text in red are my additions.

A Summary of Ephesians 4:17-24

At the beginning of the present Chapter St. Paul, starting with the words “I therefore,” proposed to deduce practical consequences in conduct from the doctrines he had just previously laid down; but after an exhortation to unity his intention was diverted into a description, more dogmatic than moral, of principles fundamental to the unity of the Christian commonwealth, the Church (Eph 4:4-11), and to a consideration of the ideal Church as a whole (Eph 4:12-14) and the harmonious interrelation of its members (Eph 4:15-16). Now resuming his original intention, expressed at the beginning of the Chapter, he will take up the question of the personal holiness of individual members of the Church, and explain it (a) negatively, in reference to the Gentile life of ignorance and impurity which they have discarded (Eph 4:17-19), and then (b) positively, in regard to the new life of enlightenment and purity which they have embraced as Christians (Eph 4:20-24).

Eph 4:17. This then I say and testify in the Lord: that henceforward you walk not as also the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind,

This then I say, etc. The Apostle now resumes in a more solemn manner the exhortation begun in verse i of this Chapter, that his readers should lead lives worthy of their exalted vocation as members of Christ’s Church. The word here translated “testify” occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Acts 22:26, and in Gal 5:3; it is a term of solemn appeal.

In the Lord, in whom we are all united, and from whom the Apostle got his mission and authority.

That henceforth, etc., i.e., that you no longer live as you did before your conversion, and as the pagans still live, “in the vanity, etc.,” i.e., in the state of intellectual and moral perversity wherein they were unable to distinguish between moral good and moral evil. For a description of this condition of the pagans see Rom 1:18-32; 1 Peter 4:1-4. The Greek for “mind” here (νοῦς = nous) embraces not only the abstract theoretical faculty of thinking and reasoning, but also the practical moral judgment of good and evil, as is evident from the following verse.

Eph 4:18. Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God on account of the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their hearts.

In this verse St. Paul says that the “blindness”—or better, “hardness” or “dullness”—of the hearts of the Gentiles, which made them impervious to the divine overtures, was the cause of their culpable “ignorance” of the will and law of God, and this ignorance left their understanding darkened, with the result that they were “alienated from the life of God,” i.e., they lived lives not in conformity with the divine precepts, and far removed from the centre and source of all spirituality and holiness. Thus, their willful sins caused their hardness or dullness of heart, their hardness or dullness of heart caused their ignorance and mental darkness, and this in turn caused their alienation from the central source of grace and spiritual life.

Eph 4:19. Who, being bereft of feeling, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness, unto covetousness.

It is not surprising that the moral and intellectual state described in the preceding verse should have left the pagans “bereft of feeling” (απηλγηκοτες) , i.e., without remorse and indifferent, so that they gave themselves up without restraint to all manner of impurity and to the commission of all kinds of uncleanness “unto covetousness,” i.e., with a greediness (πλεονεξια = pleonexia) never to be satiated. Some expositors understand πλεονεξια (= pleonexia) here to mean sexual excess. The desperantes of the Vulgate should be indolorii or indifferentes to agree with the best Greek (St. Jerome).

Eph 4:20. But you did not so learn the Christ;

In verses 17-19 the Apostle has shown his readers what their life must not be as Christians; now in verses 20-24 he will set before them what the Christian life demands of them in a positive way.

But you did not, etc., i.e., you were not so instructed in the teachings of the Gospel of Christ at the time of your conversion that you will allow yourself now to live as you lived as pagans.

Eph 4:21. If at least you have heard of him, and have been taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus

If at least, etc. See above on Eph 3:2. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote there, along with some further notes by me (in red):

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

Have been taught, etc., i.e., have been taught in Christ’s school, according to the doctrine revealed by Him.

In Jesus, i.e., in the historical Jesus who was the prophesied Christ. Only here in this Epistle does the name of Jesus appear alone.

Eph 4:22. To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error.
This and the two following verses in Greek begin with an infinitive, “to put off,” “to renew,” “to put on,” all of which go back to what the readers of this Epistle “have been taught, etc.,” in verse 21. They have been taught—or rather, they were taught at the time of their conversion—to put off the old sinful man inherited from Adam, whose principles and mode of life were theirs as pagans, and living according to which they became ever more and more; plunged into sin and error.

According to the desire of error, i.e., according to the dictates of the passions, which are always false and deceitful, promising joy and pleasure but ending in sorrow and pain.

Eph 4:23. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

To put off the old man (ver. 22) and to put on the new man (ver. 24) are really one act, and therefore they are expressed by the aorist infinitive in Greek, signifying one definite act; but to be renewed in the spirit, etc., is a progressive process, and as such it is expressed by the Greek present infinitive (Westcott).

In the spirit of your mind. The meaning of this expression, which occurs nowhere else, is not quite certain, though it is clear that it refers to the human spirit or the mind, and not to the Holy Ghost. It seems to indicate that mind, or part of the mind, which through grace is subject to God, and which in justice and truth lives according to God, in contrast to the vanity and perversity of mind of the Gentiles (Voste).

Eph 4:24. And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of the truth.

It is not sufficient to put off the old man of sin which you have inherited from Adam, but you must also “put on the new man, etc.,” i.e., the man who has been regenerated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and who having been created “according to God, etc.” (i.e., having been created in the beginning in the image and likeness of God), imitates God in his new life of grace by keeping the commandments which reflect the divine will and therefore God Himself. This new man, or creation of grace, “is created in justice and holiness,” i.e., he lives a life faithful to the obligations he owes to his neighbor (justice) and to the duties he owes to God (holiness)—that is, a life which is in entire conformity with “the truth” of the Gospel, as revealed in the Gospel.

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Commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

Ephesians 4:1—6:20 

The precepts of Christ follow from the doctrine of Christ as conclusions from premises, so that rightly lived the Christian life is nothing more than a vivid reflection of Christ’s teachings. So far in this Epistle the Apostle has spoken of Christians as predestined members of Christ’s mystical body, as living stones in God’s temple, and as units in the divine household, destined to a glory beyond all our imaginings. High, therefore, is their calling; and he would have them walk worthy of it. To this end he describes first in this Moral Part the general character of the Christian life as lived in mutual charity and holiness (4:1-24); then he treats of particular duties, whether pertinent to all or to individual members of the Christian family (4:25—6:9) ; and finally he illustrates the life of Christians as a warfare (vi. 10-20). See Introduction, No. VIII, B.

A Summary of Ephesians 4:1-16

The Christian life imposes on its members the obligation of preserving, by means of humility and loving forbearance, the spirit of unity which has been given them in the Holy Ghost. All have the same hope; all acknowledge one and the same Lord as their head; the same faith is common to all, expressed in one and the same Sacrament of Baptism; and finally, all have the same heavenly Father. There is a great diversity of gifts and functions in the Christian society, but the Ascended Christ is the Source of them all; and all have the one purpose, which is growth into perfect  corporate unity, so that the Church will come to express in its own life and maturity the life of Christ its divine Head.

Eph 4:1. I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you were called,

I therefore. The Apostle is now going to deduce practical conclusions from what he has been saying in the first part of the Epistle; and hence he means to say that, in view of all the blessings and privileges they enjoy as a result of their call to the faith, they ought to do what he is about to exhort.

A prisoner in the Lord, or, as he said above in 3:1, “the prisoner of Jesus Christ,” for having preached the Gospel.

Beseech you, etc. Better, according to the Greek, “exhort you, etc.” In view of the blessings they have received and of all Paul has suffered for them and other Christians, they ought to lead lives in conformity with their high dignity.

Eph 4:2. With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity,

He now shows them practically what they must do to live lives worthy of their calling as Christians, recommending four principal virtues. They must practise: (a) “humility,” which is opposed to pride, a source of discord and the enemy of the peace of society; (b) “mildness,” which implies gentleness and submission under trial, as opposed to anger and injurious conduct; (c) “patience,” which means long-suffering and forbearance with the defects of others and with injuries received from others; (d) “charity,” or love of neighsbor, the root and supernatural spring of all the other virtues, which makes easy the practice of all the others, and without which no other virtue can be perfect.

Eph 4:3. Careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace:

Careful, etc. Behold the end to which is ordained the practice of the four virtues just mentioned, namely, “the unity of the spirit, etc.,” i.e., concord of mind and heart, of thoughts and feelings; and this unity of souls is effected by the “bond of peace,” which is the tranquility of order. This “bond (or co-bond) of peace” means the peaceful union of souls, united by Christian love. It is the peace of which our Lord spoke at the Last Supper: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, etc.” (John 14:27). Compare the present passage with its parallel in Col 3:13-15 (cf. Hitchcock, h. l.). It is more probable that “spirit” here is to be understood of concord of minds and hearts rather than of the Holy Ghost (so ST Thomas, Estius, and others).

Eph 4:4. One body and one Spirit; as you were called in one hope of your calling:

After commending the foregoing concord of souls, the Apostle goes on to consider the elements from which the unity of the Church results objectively. There are three intrinsic elements: one body, one Spirit, one hope or end of our calling; there are three extrinsic factors: one Lord, one faith, one baptism; and finally, there is one transcendent element or factor, whose universal action is exercised in three ways: one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all (ver. 4-6). Cf. Voste, h. I.

Where there is “one body” (which is Christ’s mystical body, the Church), “one Spirit,” which animates the Church (namely, the Holy Ghost), and “one hope of your calling” (which is eternal beatitude), there surely ought to exist oneness of mind and heart, as said above. Some expositors take “Spirit” in this verse to mean concord or harmony among the members of the Church; but it is more likely that it means the Holy Spirit, because there is question now of the essential constitution of the Church and of that which unites it objectively, from which subjective harmony among its members should result, as an effect from its cause.

Eph 4:5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism:

In the preceding verse the Apostle considered the intrinsic elements of unity. Now he will treat of the extrinsic elements. The faithful have one leader, Christ, whom they all obey and in whom they are all united; they have the same objective law or faith in Christ, by which they accept the same truths and observe the same precepts; they have one and the same divine seal by which they are made members of the one mystical body of Christ, namely, Baptism.

Eph 4:6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.

Here we have the transcendent element of unity, “One God” (from whom we all have the same nature) “and Father of all” (uniting us all in one common brotherhood through adoption in Christ), “who is above all” things (as governing all), “and through all” (as pervading all), “and in all” (as sustaining all). It is better to understand the adjective “all” here as neuter rather than masculine (so Westcott, Robinson, Voste) ; and hence the Vulg. is arbitrary in varying from the one gender to the other. The nobis of the Vulg. is not represented in the best Greek.

Eph 4:7. But to every one of us was given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ.

So far the Apostle has considered the unity of the Church as to its common elements; and now he will consider that which is proper and special to individual members of the same mystical body, namely, their different gifts and functions, all of which should tend to the good of the whole (verses 7-16).

To every one of us (i.e., to each one of the faithful who make up the unity of the Church, and not to the ministers only) was given grace (i.e., the special divine help to discharge certain duties and offices in the Church, and this was done, not haphazardly confusedly, but) according to the  measure, etc. (i.e., according to the work each one was to do in the Church in fulfillment of the purpose of Christ, the Giver of that grace).

Eph 4:8. Wherefore he saith: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men.

In this and in the two following verses the Apostle shows that our Lord is indeed the distributer of the gifts spoken of in verse 7; and to prove it he quotes in the present verse Psalm 68:19, which, in its literal sense, refers to a temporal victory of the Jews over their enemies through the help of Jehovah, but in its spiritual meaning refers to the triumphal Ascension of our Lord into heaven after achieving our redemption by His victory over sin and Satan. The Psalmist is picturing Jehovah as ascending to His Sanctuary on Mt. Sion after the victory of His people, and there accepting spoil from His vanquished foes; and this is a figure of the Ascension of Christ into heaven, following the completion of the work of our redemption, and thence distributing His gifts to the faithful on the Day of Pentecost. The munificence of Jehovah to Israel prefigured the bounty of Christ bestowing His gifts on men. The Apostle is probably quoting the Psalm from memory, and so does not give the exact words either of the Hebrew or of the LXX of the Psalm.

He saith. Better, “It saith” (i.e., the Scripture says).

Captivity means “captives,” the Hebrew abstract standing for the concrete. But who are the captives in the application? If we need to seek an application for this phrase, they are (a) mankind wrested from the captivity of the evil one, Satan, or (b) the conquered evil spirits who had enslaved man until the coming of Christ.

He gave. In the Psalm we have “Thou didst receive,” a different person and a different verb; but St. Paul, speaking in the third person of our Lord, is using the words which the Psalmist addressed to Jehovah in the second person. As Jehovah received spoil from Israel’s enemies, so did our Lord receive gifts to be distributed “to men” (i.e., to the faithful).

Eph 4:9. Now that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

The Apostle means to say here that the Ascension of Christ into heaven presupposes His descent from heaven to this earth at the time of His Incarnation; or to the lower parts of the earth, to the Limbo of the dead, after His crucifixion; or, if we take the ascent to be previous to the descent, the meaning is that after our Lord ascended into heaven. He later descended at Pentecost through the Holy Spirit with His special gifts of grace to the faithful, or in general to take up His dwelling in the souls of the just. But St. Paul is saying that the descent was previous to the ascent, and hence we must reject opinions that suppose the contrary. We should hold, then, that the descent in question was either at the time of the Incarnation when our Lord first came to this earth (so Knabenbauer, Cajetan, and many non-Catholics), or when He visited the abode of the dead between His own death and glorious Resurrection (so St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, Estius, Voste, etc.). The latter opinion is thought to be more in harmony with: (a) Pss. 62:10; 138:15; Rom 10:7; Acts 2:27; 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:6; (b) the context of St. Paul, for in the following verse it is said that our Lord “ascended above all the heavens,” the contrary of which would be to descend to the lowest parts of the earth: He ranged from the lowest to the highest, thus visiting all, “that he might fill all things” (ver. 10).

What is it? That is, “What does it imply?” The word “first” agrees with the context, but is of doubtful authenticity.

Eph 4:10. He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

He that descended (from heaven to earth, and even to the lower parts of the earth, though His Incarnation) is the same also that ascended, etc. (on Ascension Day, and took His seat on the right hand of the Father), that he might fill all things (by the exercise of His power and rule, and the influence of His grace, especially in His Church). The person that ascended is the same as the person that descended. The Son of God descended from heaven, taking upon Himself our human nature; and the Son of man ascended according to His human nature to the sublimity of immortal life (St. Thomas, h. l.).

Above all the heavens. These words contain no approval by St. Paul of the opinion of the Rabbins that there were seven heavens; the Apostle is merely emphasizing the supreme exaltation of the Lord. It is true that in 2 Cor 12:2, St. Paul himself speaks of the “third heaven,” but there he is most likely only referring to the immediate presence of God.

Eph 4:11. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors,

Returning to the thought of ver. 7, after the parenthesis of ver. 8-10, the Apostle is now going to speak about the various gifts bestowed by our Lord on certain ones among the faithful, and the end to which these gifts are ordained (cf. also Rom 12:4-6; 1 Cor 12:4 ff.). It is to be noted that the various names here designate offices or functions rather than persons. Therefore, “apostles” are those who had the gift of the apostolate, and most likely included others besides the Twelve, like Paul, Barnabas, etc. (Rom 16:7).

Prophets are those who taught, instructed, and exhorted others (1 Cor 14:1-5), as well as foretellers of future events, like Agabus (Acts 11:27-28, Acts 21:10-11).

Evangelists are not necessarily those only who wrote the Gospels, but missionaries and preachers of the word among strangers and infidels (John 21:15 ff.; Acts 21:8; 2 Tim 4:5; 1 Peter 2:25).

Pastors and doctors. Before these two names in Greek there is but one article; whereas the article precedes each of the names given before in this list. From this fact St. Jerome, St. Thomas, and others have concluded that the care of souls and the office of teacher go together, that he who is a pastor ought also to be a teacher. But other commentators hold that there is question of separate functions here not necessarily to be found in the same person, just as there was above, and that St. Paul omitted the article before the last word here in his hurry to close the list (so Voste).

Eph 4:12. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ

Here the Apostle points out the end or purpose of the ministry just detailed. All those gifts and offices were “for the perfecting of the saints” (i.e., for the purpose of equipping or fitting out those on whom they were bestowed) “for the work of the ministry” (i.e., for the fulfillment of the duties they were to discharge among the faithful), thus enabling all the members of the Church to do each his full share by word, work and example towards “the edifying of the body of Christ” (i.e., towards building up and perfecting the Church, and spreading its work and influence over the world). The word rendered “perfecting” occurs here only in the New Testament, and most probably means “equipment,” “preparation.” Those who translate it in the sense of “perfection” reverse the order of the words in the verse and make “the perfecting of the saints” the end and purpose of “the work of the ministry” and “the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Eph 4:13. Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ;

Until does not here refer so much to time as to the ultimate purpose or end to which all the charisms in question are ordained, which end or purpose is “unity of faith” and a supernatural “knowledge of the Son of God”; so that by individual and corporate spiritual growth, effort and influence the Church may come to realize and express in her own life that mature and full-grown perfection which is in Christ her divine Head. Christ is the standard or “measure” of perfection toward which the individual Christian and the Church as a whole must tend, and which, individually and collectively, the faithful must, in so far as possible, endeavor to express here on earth. Hence “age” here refers not to the years but to the perfection of Christ.

Eph 4:14. That henceforth we would be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive;

The Apostle here states negatively what he said in a positive manner in the preceding verse; there he showed how the Church was to attain its perfection, and now he shows how it should avoid what is opposed to its perfection. We must not henceforth exhibit the mental weakness and ignorance of children, who are fickle and inconstant, subject to the influence of all the false opinions and changing novelties by which wicked, cunning, and crafty men try to lead the unwary astray.

Tossed to and fro, etc. Better, “tossed about on the waves, and carried round and round by every wind of doctrine,” as so many outside the Church are, which is not a very safe way to reach the port of salvation. “What St. Paul deprecated as the waywardness of an undisciplined child, is now glorified as free thought” (Rickaby). The Vulgate, fluctuantes et circumferamur, should read fluctuantes et circumlati, to agree with the best Greek; and in nequitia should be in fradulentia (the Greek word being a metaphor from cheating at dice).

Eph 4:15. But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ:

Instead of being deceived and led into error by evil and cunning men, we must be followers of “the truth,” i.e., we must confess, love, and practise the truths made known to us by our faith; and not only so, but our faith and works must be vivified by “charity,” or the love of God, so that “in all things,” or better, “as to all things” (i.e., as to our whole being, our entire Christian perfection), we may “grow up in him, etc.,” i.e., increase and solidify our union with Christ, our divine Head. The more we grow in perfection, the more we come to resemble in all things Jesus Christ who is the Head of the mystical body of which we are the members.

Eph 4:16. From whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly conjoined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity.

Having just spoken of Christ, the Head of the mystical body which is the Church, the Apostle now goes on to describe the growth and increase of that mystical body as it is united in charity to Christ its Head.

The words “being compacted” down to “every part” inclusive should be regarded as parenthetical, so that the main sentence reads: “From whom the whole body maketh increase, etc.” This verse affords a typical example of St. Paul’s compressed and pregnant style, where in a few words a multitude of ideas are contained. It is extremely obscure, as St. Chrysostom says, because the Apostle wants to say everything at once. We find a parallel in Col 2:19.

From whom, i.e., from Christ, the fountain whence flows the whole spiritual life of “the whole body,” which is the Church, the members of which “being compacted, etc.,” i.e., being closely and harmoniously connected, one with the other, and vitally conjoined so as to form one organic whole and act as a unit. The words “compacted” and “conjoined” are expressed by present participles in Greek, and therefore convey the idea of a living, progressive process of growth by which the Church is ever moving on in development, strength, and perfection to its final consummation in heaven.

By what every joint supplieth. Passing over several different and less likely opinions about the exact meaning of the Greek word αφης (here rendered “joint”) and επιχορηγιας (rendered “supplieth”), we may hold the most probable meaning of the Apostle to be that help descends from Christ the Head into the whole mystical body through the joints by which the various members are connected one with the other. As in the physical organism help comes from the head to the different members through the joints or connecting physical links, so in the mystical body of Christ, the Church, help is communicated from Christ the Head to the various members (to the faithful) through the joints, i.e., through the various ministries, gifts and functions spoken of above in verse 7; but the help thus supplied is not the same for each member, but is “according to the operation, etc.”-that is, it is in proportion to the power or supply of help given it by the Head, which supply or power is itself proportioned to the capacity of each member and to the work each particular member is given to perform. And all the members being thus assisted and thus operating, it happens that the whole body “maketh increase, etc.” (i.e., grows in unity, strength, and effectiveness), and all this through the vitalizing principle and power of “charity.”

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Commentary on Ephesians 3:14-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

A Summary of Eph 3:14-19

Having considered his ministry among the Gentiles, St. Paul now continues his prayer interrupted in verse 1b. Prostrating himself in mind before the Father of all, from whom all fathership in heaven and on earth derives its name and its nature, he asks that his readers may be interiorly strengthened by the Divine Spirit; that Christ by faith may dwell in their hearts; that, being rooted and founded in charity, they may be able to comprehend with all the faithful the full scope and extent of His love for us, which surpasses all our understanding; and that, finally, they may come to embody in their own lives the full content of plenitude of God.

Eph 3:14. For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The Apostle resumes the prayer begun in Eph 3:1, but interrupted by the long parenthesis of Eph 3:2-13.

For this cause, i.e., in view of the grace given the Gentiles, which makes them equal sharers with the Jews in Messianic benefits.

I bow my knees, etc., words denoting a humble and fervent attitude of prayer, not necessarily expressed by the physical posture. The “Father” is addressed because He is the creator and source of all things. The words, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” should be omitted, according to the evidence of the Greek MSS. and the best Patristic authority.

Eph 3:15. Of whom every paternity in heaven and earth is named,

Of whom every paternity, etc. St. Paul is stressing the common Fatherhood of God. Every paternity (πασα πατρια) is named from the father ( πατερα), and all created fatherhood is but a reflection at best of the Fatherhood of God.

In heaven and on earth, i.e., among the angels in heaven and the different nations of the earth ; every possible family derives its name and has its being from the Father above. The angels are said to be divided into different families according to their different orders (Estius). 

Eph 3:16. That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inner man.
 Eph 3:17. That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity,
 Eph 3:18. You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth:
Eph 3:19. To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God.

In verses 16-19 The Apostle comes back to the purpose for which he has figuratively bent his knees in prayer, and asks God to give his readers strength, and this “according to the riches of his glory,” I.e., in a manner beyond measure, or according to His infinite power and goodness. In Eph 1:19 St. Paul had prayed that his readers might know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe,” and here he prays that they may be made mighty with that power; and his prayer now is a positive supplication corresponding to the negative petition, “not to faint,” of Eph 3:13.

By his Spirit (ver. 16) etc., i.e., that they may be strengthened by the grace of the Holy Ghost in the higher or spiritual faculties of their souls, in their conscience, understanding, imagination, and will—for all of which the heart in Scripture is regarded as the seat. In further and more determinate words, he prays that (ver. 17) “Christ may dwell by faith in their hearts” (i.e., that the presence of Christ in their minds and wills may, by means of a faith which operates by charity, become ever more perfect), so that “being rooted, etc.” (i.e., being firmly fixed in love of God), they “may be able to comprehend” (i.e., mentally to perceive ver. 18) “with all the saints” (i.e., in union with the whole assembly of the faithful) “what is the breadth, etc.” (i.e., the measurement or full extent of the Messiah’s love for us Christians vers. 18-19); that is to say, that they may even know how great is the love of Christ towards us, so that, as far as it is possible for created intelligences, they may have the strength at length to grasp in Beatific Vision the fullness of the divine nature, that is, that they, the members of Christ’s mystical body, may be able to take in of the divine nature, according to their capacity, as much as their Head, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity corporally (see Eph 4:13), perceives according to His capacity.

It is obvious that the Christian perfection of his readers for which St. Paul here prays can be attained in its fullness only in the life to come beyond the grave, though the progress towards it should go on here continually; and even in that other life of Beatific Vision the soul, while perceiving and knowing in an ever-increasing measure the love of Christ for it, can never fully grasp its divine object through all the ages of eternity, simply because the object is infinite; the created knowledge can never be commensurate with the increate object; the goal is ever being attained, but is never attained or attainable; and hence the Apostle says it “surpasseth all knowledge.”

At first sight it sounds paradoxical that St. Paul should pray that his readers may “be able to comprehend” and “to know” that which he afterwards says “surpasseth all knowledge,” but his meaning is clear: he is praying for such a perception and such a knowledge of the love of Christ for them and such a grasp of the divine nature on their part as will be commensurate with their finite capacities, which can ever be increased and extended, but which, in the nature of things, can never equal and exhaust their divine and infinite object. Forever the redeemed soul will find in God more to know, more to love, more to adore; and even at the farthest stretch of the eternal years it will still be as far away from completely comprehending or exhausting the overflowing ocean of God’s infinite being as it was at its entrance into bliss. Here indeed is a revelation that provides the only philosophy of life that has a clue for the otherwise hopeless riddle of our present existence; that rescues our poor life from its littleness and miseries and links it with the tides of the Eternal; that promises an ultimate and adequate satisfaction to the endless reachings of the human mind and the boundless longings of the human heart.

A further explanation of some words in these verses (Eph 3:16-19) may be needed. Thus, “unto the inner man” (ver. 16) is paralleled by “in your hearts” in the following verse, and it means the higher spiritual faculties of the soul—the domain of reason, thought, conscience, will, etc., as said above. Fr. Callan will now give some further specific notes on verses 17 and 18 which were quoted above. I’ve reproduced those verses here for the readers convenience.

Eph 3:17. That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity,

By faith, i.e., by means of an implicit trust in all that has been revealed, and this, not merely by a speculative adhesion of the mind to revealed truth, but by a practical exercise in works of what one believes, by a faith that lives by charity: “If any one love me, he will keep my word, etc.” (John 14:23-24).

Being rooted, like a tree of the Lord in the rich soil of the love of God, and founded, like stones of the Temple on the same love.

In charity. It is disputed whether these words should go with what precedes or with what follows ; and also whether there is question of God’s love for Christians or of the love Christians have for God. As to the first point, it seems that the participles “rooted” and “founded” need determination, and therefore that the phrase “in charity” should go with them. As to the second point, since the Apostle is praying that his readers may understand Christ’s love for them, and since love is perceived by love and the more Christ is loved the better He is understood, it would seem that the words “in charity” ought to refer to the love Paul’s readers have for Christ.

Eph 3:18. You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth:

May be able to comprehend, as far as a finite being can comprehend.

With all the saints, may be taken disjunctively or collectively, as implying what each one of the faithful may be able to do, or what all of them together can do, the knowledge and experience of each individual soul adding to and enriching the knowledge and experience of every other soul.

What is the breadth, etc., is probably an accumulation of terms to express exhaustive measurement; the Apostle wishes his readers to perceive the love of Christ for them to the full extent of their capacity. The object is not expressed after this clause, but we have taken it to be love of Christ for the faithful, which will be named just below. See Rom 8:39 for similar terms of measurement relative to divine love: “Neither height nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us, etc.” Others, with the Greek Fathers, take the object of the foregoing dimensions to be the mystery of the salvation of all nations through Christ, treated before in this and in the preceding chapters. Such, we are told, is the meaning, because the words, “to know also,” that follow indicate an addition to the thought that precedes, and have their own object distinctly expressed, namely, “the charity of Christ.” But, we may ask, is not that great mystery of the union of all peoples in Christ the effect or the fruit of divine love, and therefore ultimately to be resolved into that love? Moreover, the phrase, “to know also,” may be correctly rendered from the Greek, “and even to know,” which intensifies the thought just previously expressed, without adding to it something new.

Eph 3:19. To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God.
That you may be filled, etc. The fullness here intended may be understood of God’s own fullness, which is poured into our souls according to our capacity to receive it: “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, etc.” (Matt 5:48); or it may be taken, as in Eph 1:23, of the fullness which is given to God through the Church. We prefer the first meaning, which is that understood by St. Thomas, St. John Chrysostom, and many others among modern expositors.

A Summary of Eph 3:20-21

As in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 11:33-36), so also here St. Paul terminates the Dogmatic Part of his letter with a solemn ascription of praise to God. He has considered the great mystery of the union of all nations in Christ, and his own ministry in the revelation of that mystery; he has asked much for his readers, but he has done so with all confidence, because the Almighty Father is able to do all things more abundantly than we can know or understand. It is fitting, therefore, to bring these sublime considerations to a close with words of praise to Him who has done so much for us, and who is able to do infinitely more than we  an conceive or desire; neither God’s gifts nor His power can we fully comprehend.

Eph 3:20. Now to him who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us;
According to the power, etc., i.e., according to the grace of the Holy Spirit within us (cf. Rom 8:26; Col 1:29).

Eph 3:21. To him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, unto all generations, world without end. Amen.

To him, etc., i.e., to God all-powerful and our supreme benefactor be the external praise due to His wondrous works.

In the church, i.e., in the mystical body of Christ, which is the theatre wherein are manifested principally the grace and mercy of God.

And in Christ, the Head of the Church, from whom all graces come to us.

Unto all generations, etc. Throughout all time and all eternity the redeemed shall praise God for the graces and mercies He has bestowed upon them in Christ.

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Commentary on Ephesians 3:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

Text in red are my additions.

A Summary of Ephesians 3:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eph 3:2. If at least you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you
If at least you have heard. Abbott and many others hold that these words prove that St. Paul was addressing readers personally unknown to him. Westcott thinks there is nothing in the words to sustain such a conclusion. Moule believes we have here “a phrase of almost irony, an illusion to well- known fact under the disguise of hypothesis.” Alexander says the words are expressive of gentle assurance. As a compromise, Robinson holds they mean that some, at least, of the readers were personally unknown to the Apostle. Hitchcock explains that St. Paul first had the intention of writing to the Ephesians, as he had written to the Colossians, but that his outlook changed as he wrote, embracing the Churches of the Lycus Valley and other Gentiles. Voste would translate: “Since indeed you have heard, etc.” If we explain the words as conditional, as in Eph 4:21, we still may hold that they are rhetorical, not implying any real doubt. A few number of ancient manuscripts and some church fathers witness to the fact that this letter may not have been addressed specifically to the Ephesians since the manuscripts in question had no addressee. Some scholars believe that “Ephesians” was actually written as a circular letter, intended to be delivered and read to a number of different churches and, therefore, originally lacked a specific addressee. Some phrasing in the letter (such as the current verse and 1:15) can be taken as indicating that St Paul was not directly acquainted with the people he is writing to, but Paul was intimately acquainted with the Ephesians.

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

Eph 3:3. How that, according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me, as I have written above in a few words;
The Apostle now begins to explain how the mystery of grace was made known to him, that is, his apostleship among the Gentiles, as he has explained above in Eph 2:11 ff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eph 3:5. Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit

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

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

Sons of men is a Hebraism meaning all men.

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

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

Eph 3:6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and co-partners of the promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of all the saints, i.e., of all the Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8-9).
St. Paul never forgets his past life as a persecutor, and the more he realizes the greatness of the grace of God bestowed on him, the more clearly his own unworthiness appears.

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

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

Eph 3:9. And to enlighten all men that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things:
To enlighten, etc. Such was the further effect of Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, to make known to all men the divine plan, hidden from eternity, of saving the whole world by means of the human life, labors, sufferings, death, and glorious resurrection of the eternal Son of God made man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eph 3:13. Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
Another consequence of the revelation preached by Paul is the sufferings it brought upon him; but here he prays that his readers may not grow remiss and faint-hearted as a result of the afflictions he has to endure for preaching the Gospel to them; for his sufferings are their glory, inasmuch as they are an evidence of God’s love for them, since God was willing to permit His Apostle to endure so much for their sakes: the privileges they enjoy and the afflictions Paul has undergone that they might have those privileges indicate how dear they are to God.

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

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

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

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Commentary on Ephesians 2:11-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018

A summary of  Eph 2:11-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eph 2:15. Making void the law of commandments contained in decrees; that he might make the two in himself into one new man, making peace;
Some expositors connect “in his flesh” of the preceding verse with what follows here; but this does not affect the sense, since it was by His passion and death that Christ both removed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and abrogated the Law with its statutes and precepts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are no more strangers, to the covenants of the promise (cf. Eph 2:12), and foreigners, i.e., aliens, without the rights of citizenship in the spiritual commonwealth of God; but you are fellow citizens, etc., i.e., full members of the mystical body of Christ and of the household of God, together with those of Jewish origin; you are all now inmates of the Father’s house in Christ.

Eph 2:20. Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:
Built, etc., or better, “having been built upon the apostles and prophets” of the New Testament as a moral foundation, with “Jesus Christ himself” as the chief cornerstone of that foundation, who thus gives coherence and fixity to it and to the whole superstructure erected upon it. Having spoken at the end of ver. 19 of the inmates of the household of God, the Apostle in this verse passes to the building itself. The past tense of the verb here shows that the Gentiles became fellow-citizens in the New Jerusalem and members of God’s family at the time of their conversion (Hitchcock, op. cit., h. I.). It is more probable that the “foundation” here refers to the apostles and prophets themselves, than to the doctrine they preached (1 Cor 3:10), since they are paralleled by “Jesus Christ” which follows. Nor is it likely that we should take Christ as the foundation here, as in 1 Cor 3:11, since just below He is said to be the “chief cornerstone.” We are likewise to understand “apostles and prophets” to refer to the New Testament teachers and ministers of the Word (Acts 11:28, 15:32; 1 Cor 14), rather than to the Prophets of the Old Testament, as we judge from the order of the words here, from the fact that both nouns are preceded by only one article in Greek, from the parallel passages in Eph 3:5 and 4:11, where the reference is certainly to New Testament prophets, etc. On the other hand, it is true that the Old Testament Prophets are frequently regarded in the New Testament as Evangelists before the time (Luke 24:25; Acts 3:18, 21, 24, 10:43; Rom 16:26).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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