Saturday, March 25th, 2023
the Fourth Week of Lent
the Fourth Week of Lent
There are 15 days til Easter!
Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 2". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ctf/ ephesians-2.html. 1993-2022.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 2". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/
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And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
And you hath he quickened: The writer now shows that the same power exercised on the body of Christ to raise Him from the dead (1:19-20) is used upon those who are dead in sins to resurrect them from spiritual death (2:5). The phrase "hath he quickened" is not in the Greek text but is grammatically supplied by the KJV translators, even though the idea is not expressly stated until verse 5. "You" refers to Gentiles (2:11).
This is the beginning of another extended sentence in the Greek (2:1-10).
who were dead: This clause is speaking of spiritual death. Spiritual death is the state of being separated from fellowship or affiliation with God. Isaiah records, "...your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear" (59:2 NASB). Sin creates a division between us and God. Since we are dependent upon God for our eternal life and since our sin destroys our relationship with God, we are dead, cut off, alienated from the source of eternal life.
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things ("sins" Ephesians 2:20) you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:21-23 NIV). (See also Romans 6:16; John 3:36.)
Someone can be physically alive and yet spiritually dead at the same time. Paul tells Timothy, "But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives" (1 Timothy 5:6 NASB). (Note also Romans 5:12; Romans 5:21; James 1:15; James 5:20; Romans 7:5; Romans 7:10; Romans 7:13; Romans 7:24; John 5:24.)
An outstanding illustration of spiritual death is found in the parable of the prodigal son:
And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father said to his slaves, "Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found." And they began to be merry (Luke 15:21-24 NASB).
In this passage the son admits to his father that he has "sinned" and is "no longer worthy to be called your son." This declaration does not mean he is not a son, only that he does not consider himself worthy of such a position. It is apparent the erring son is representative of an erring Christian, for it is speaking of someone who is an heir wasting the blessings of his father in a sinful, rebellious way. The father in this parable represents God and shows our Father’s continuing love for his children who have forsaken the right way. The statement of the father reflects the spiritual impasse of the father/son relationship while the son is in sin. The father affirms, "...for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found" (Luke 15:24 NASB). To the father, the sinful "son" was dead in sin and lost.
This illustration of spiritual fellowship lost does not end sadly. When the father sees the son, he can see the haughty spirit has been replaced by humility (Luke 15:20; Matthew 6:8). This repenting child then confesses his sin to his father and finds that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NASB). The son, who "was dead" to his father, repents and confesses his sin. Upon his repentance and confession, his father forgives him; therefore, he spiritually "came to life again." The imagery of death and life, as used here, is often used when illustrating fellowship issues with God.
We must not overlook the fact that those who neglect (Hebrews 2:3) or choose not to receive forgiveness for their sins before their physical death (2 Corinthians 5:10) will experience a "second death" at the judgment (Revelation 21:8).
Contextually, the writer is stating that the Gentiles were spiritually dead to God because of their own "trespasses and sins."
in trespasses and sins: The scriptures here maintain that "trespasses and sins" are what bring about spiritual death, not "hereditary depravity." The words "trespasses" and "sins" are probably synonymous (compare 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Romans 4:25). "Trespasses" literally means to "fall beside," and "sins" literally means "a failing to hit the mark" (Thayer 485, 30). To illustrate, one may shoot an arrow and fail to hit the mark, or shoot an arrow and have it fall beside the mark. They both mean the same thing; he missed the mark. Spiritually, when one "misses" the mark of keeping God’s will, he has sinned. He can sin by either violating the standard of God’s will or by failing to come up to its standards.
John explains, "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4 NIV). The law or "mark" in this context is the righteous will of God. The sinner arrogantly lives in total disregard of the will of God, as though the Creator has no law or moral judgment for His creation. The sinner chooses to live in contempt of any law or higher authority that would supersede his own will. He is one who does not subject himself to any authority and, therefore, practices "lawlessness." Sin, then, is a failure to comply with the will of God through choice or disregard.
At the final judgment, those who "practice lawlessness" will hear the Lord say, "...I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB).
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Wherein in time past ye walked: The term "walk" is used often in the scriptures to talk about the lifestyle or way of life that one chooses (Romans 6:4; Colossians 1:10; Colossians 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 John 2:6; 2 John 1:6). The Gentiles "used to live...in the ways of this world" (NIV).
according to the course of this world: The literal translation is "according to the age of this world" (Berry 684). This "world-age" should be contrasted with the "age to come" mentioned in Ephesians 1:21. In other words, they were living as if this time (or age) was all that existed; there was no time to come. Following "...the ways of this world" (NIV) means to ignore the possibilities of eternity and heaven and live completely for the present (1 John 2:15-17). This temporal time is called "this present evil age" in Galatians 1:4 in contrast to the future where God has cast down evil (see 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:18).
In the past as sinners we set our mind on the things of this present, temporal world. But in Christ we are to set our mind "...on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). This verse teaches us to fix our ambitions on eternal things (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). We are not to "...be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2 NASB).
according to the prince of the power of the air: "The evil spirits were supposed to inhabit the air, and the devil who ruled over them was called the prince of the powers of the air" (Gospel Advocate Commentary, Ephesians, Shepherd 39).
Satan is called the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11), and the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan was allowed this power (Luke 4:6).
Paul is reminding the Ephesians they have previously followed Satan (Acts 19:18-20).
the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: The best translation of this phrase seems to be, "this is the spirit who now rules the people who disobey God" (Bratcher & Nida 42).
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past: Paul now includes the Jews in this discussion of spiritual death. A paraphrase might be: "We Jews, just like you Gentiles, all lived our past lives gratifying fleshly lusts..." The word "conversation" (Strong 390) carries the meaning of how to "conduct one’s self, or behave one’s self, live" and speaks of one’s walk or manner of life (Thayer 42). "Among them we too all formerly lived" (NASB) is a better translation.
in the lusts of our flesh: The word translated "lust" denotes a strong desire of any kind and is sometimes used in a positive way (Luke 22:15; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17). The majority of the time, however, "lust" means to have a "desire for what is forbidden" (Thayer 238). For every desire or appetite that God gave man, He gives him a lawful way to express that desire. The urge to express a desire in an unlawful way is usually called "lust" (1 John 2:16). Lust is a temptation mentally entertained (2 Corinthians 10:5; Proverbs 23:17). The "flesh" is the earthly nature of man; therefore, the "lusts of our flesh" are unlawful desires that originate from or are stimulated by our fleshly existence (Galatians 5:19-21).
It should be noted that the New International Version is severely interpretive on this point and betrays a Calvinistic bias by translating this phrase "...gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature," where the original text reads that we lived "in the desires of our flesh." Our "flesh" is not labeled as sinful: it is simply labeled as ours (Boles 222). The phrase "sinful nature" (NIV) carries a lot of baggage with it, specifically the human doctrine of total inability, more commonly known as the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Hereditary Depravity. The Bible, however, plainly teaches that our fleshly existence does not necessitate a sinful condition or predisposition. In Genesis 1:31, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good..." (NASB).
fulfilling the desires of the flesh: As sinners, our former manner of life focused on indulging our flesh’s appetites (2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 2:18). "Our physical nature has numerous such appetites, all of which lead to sin when they are not subjected to the will of God" (Boles 222). Because sin appeals through the flesh, we must always be alert and discerning (Hebrews 5:14) when determining how we satisfy our desires. The context implies this phrase is speaking of sinful fleshly desires.
and of the mind: The Bible speaks of a depraved mind (Romans 1:28; 2 Timothy 3:8), a defiled mind (Titus 1:15), and a mind that views God as an enemy (Colossians 1:21, Romans 8:7). We know that out of the "heart" (synonym for "mind": Mark 2:6; Luke 5:22) comes sin (Matthew 15:18-19) and that sinners walk "in the futility of their mind" (4:17). But as Christians we are to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (4:23), for God wants us to serve him with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). God endeavors to guide us through our mind, not the flesh.
There does not seem to be a great distinction in scripture between the mind and heart of man (compare Hebrews 8:10 and Hebrews 10:16; which is a quote of Jeremiah 31:33). We might assume that man thinks, understands, and reasons with his mind and feels emotion with his heart. The Bible states, however, that some were "...reasoning in their hearts" (Mark 2:6; Luke 5:22) and others had neglected the potential of "understanding with their heart" (Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27; John 12:40).
and were by nature: The phrase "by nature" may seem to suggest that we are naturally "children of wrath," or sinners. But the word "nature" here refers to conduct practiced so long and habitually that it becomes a natural way of life for the sinner (Thayer 660). Contextually this phraise could suggest we are, by our unregenerate nature or condition, children of wrath. In other words, because we, in our own sin, had not yet accessed the grace of God, we stood naturally condemned. Without forgiveness for our sins, we are in a carnal and natural condition, unchanged, without reconciliation to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and, therefore, destined for wrath.
We must make note and emphasize, however, that this phrase is not speaking of our being naturally born into the world with God’s wrath already upon us because of guilt inherited from Adam. Our fleshly existence does not necessitate a sinful predisposition (Romans 2:14; Luke 8:15).
Some mistakenly affirm: "We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners." John MacArthur expresses it like this: "Committing sinful acts does not make us sinners; we commit sinful acts because we are sinners" (MacArthur 54). However, the scriptures plainly teach that spiritual death comes after temptation, lust, and sin:
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death (James 1:13-15 NASB).
If, as Calvinism teaches, we are born sinners and are, therefore, spiritually dead at birth, the process would have death bringing about temptation, lust, and sin. Nevertheless, James 1:13-15 teaches the effect is not the cause. Paul also affirms that sin is not inherited naturally but becomes "alive" sometime after we are born (Romans 7:9-11).
Nevertheless, the Bible does teach that if we allow sin or lawlessness (1 John 3:4) to remain in our lives, it will result "in further lawlessness" (Romans 6:19 NASB). This is a developed depravity. Both Jew and Gentile had practiced sin so long and habitually it had become a natural way of life.
the children of wrath: John records, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36 NASB). Sinners inherit the "wrath" of God as the wages of their sin (Romans 6:23). We become "children of wrath" by effect of our own personal sin.
The prophet Ezekiel records, "...the soul who sins will die" (Ezekiel 18:4). We are not dead to God because of the nature of our existence, but we die to God when we choose to sin. "Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices" (Ecclesiastes 7:29 NASB). "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:15 NASB).
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2 NASB).
It is our sinful choices, not our natural existence, that creat our problem with God.
even as others: The Jews were just like others in the world, out of fellowship with God because of their sin.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
But God: There is a time sequence suggested within these thoughts. Before Christ, "in time past (2:2)," they were dead in sin (2:1-3), "but" now they are alive in Christ (2:4-10).
who is rich in mercy: God has a wealth of mercy. Those who are rich seem to have no shortage of money; they seem to have an endless supply. This metaphor pictures an abundant, overflowing supply of God’s mercy. God has a tremendous amount of mercy.
To be merciful means having a heart full of kindness and compassion that wishes good for others. A merciful heart has a desire to help those in bad situations, those in need because of some kind of distress. "Mercy," however, is not a synonym for "permissive." (See "rich in grace" 2:7.)
for his great love: The word "for" contextually is better translated "because of" and would, therefore, mean "God has abundant mercy because of his great love for us." Love is the brook from which we drink the "water of life" (John 4:13-14):
The most wonderful news that a man can receive is that God is love (1 John 4:16). God is eternal. But if He is not concerned for man who is a creature of time, a created being who thus has not existed eternally, then man can have no real and lasting hope. God is all powerful, but if God does not love man, the power of God becomes simply a source of terror to us. God is holy; but if God does not love us the holiness of God must repel us from God, for we are unholy. God is just, but we have sinned and, unless there is compassion with God, there is only fear in the heart of man when he thinks upon the holiness of God and of man’s own sinfulness. Thus without the truth that God is love, the other truths about God would work for our condemnation and not for our salvation (Bales, The Biblical Doctrine of God 65).
wherewith he loved us: "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10 NASB). "Propitiation" means "the atoning sacrifice" (NIV) or a reconciling sacrifice (1 John 2:2). (Note also John 3:16.)
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Even when we were dead in sins: God loved us even while we were dead in sin (2:1). It was "while we were yet sinners" that God chose to demonstrate His wondrous love for us:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8 NASB).
God has amazing love. God loved us "first" (1 John 4:19) before we loved Him. The fact that there was nothing within us to prompt God’s caring response, nothing worthy of honor to call forth the virtues of salvation, makes God’s love astonishing. His response to us in our sin is to desire our salvation (1 Timothy 2:4), that is, God does not want "any to perish" (2 Peter 3:9). This kind of love is nothing short of majestic (see notes on 2:1).
hath quickened us together with Christ: The phrase "hath quickened us together with" is from one Greek word (Strong 4806). The word means "to make one alive together with another" (Thayer 594). We might ask, "When does this occur?" We are made "alive together with" Christ in baptism. Paul explains:
How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:2-11 NASB).
We died to sin (Romans 6:2) and were "united with Him" (Romans 6:5) in "baptism" so that we might be "alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11).
The only other passage in the New Testament that uses this Greek word (Strong 4806) is Colossians 2:13, which, not surprisingly, is speaking of baptism:
Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions (Colossians 2:12-13 NASB).
We are made "alive together with Him" after we are "buried with Him" and "raised up with Him" in baptism. The blessings of salvation are possible because of "the working of God" in baptism, that is, God performs the forgiving of our sins.
Surely baptism is being alluded to here in Ephesians 2:5-6 (Patzia 180). Continuing in the context is the phrase "raised us up with Him" (2:6), a striking parallel to Colossians 2:12.
The writer is affirming that Jews and Gentiles were taken from a state of spiritual death to being "alive" unto God by being united with Christ in baptism, and all that is involved in salvation springs from the grace of God. (See also 2 Timothy 1:8-10.)
(by grace ye are saved;): Grace is the core of our salvation (Titus 2:11). "Saved" here is in the perfect tense and is talking about the present, not the potential. This tense signifies the present result of a past action and has been translated "have been saved" (NIV), but "are saved" is more accurate. This parenthesis is picked up and explained in 2:8.
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
And hath raised us up together: The Greek reads literally "raised [us] with" Him, that is Christ (see notes above). (See also Colossians 3:1; Colossians 2:12.)
and made us sit together: The Greek reads literally "seated [us] with" Him, that is Christ (1:20). Because of this blessing, we have been empowered, in a sense, to reign over evil (3:20; Philippians 4:13; 1 John 4:4; Romans 8:35-39). By virtue of a believer’s union with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-9), he shares in Christ’s victory and thereby rules with Christ in the heavenly realm. We rule with Christ in that we are citizens in God’s kingdom and, therefore, enjoy the privileges of being a free people. We are not, to use a military term, an "occupied" people, but an assimilated people (see 1 Corinthians 4:8; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6; 2 Timothy 2:12).
in heavenly places: (See notes on 1:3.)
in Christ Jesus: Notice where the emphasis is placed, time and time again: all spiritual blessings are found "in Christ" 1:3).
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
That in the ages to come: The blessings found "in Christ" are not limited to this life (2:5-6). They continue "in the ages to come."
he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace: The word "exceeding" carries the idea of the supreme expression of grace. It means to "...transcend, surpass, exceed, excel" in grace (Thayer 640). To be rich in something is to have a source that is seemingly inexhaustible.
Grace seems to describe God’s attitude toward the need of the lawbreaker or those who are lawless while mercy is His attitude toward those who are in distress and in need of compassion (2:4). (See notes on 1:7.)
in his kindness toward us: The source of this boundless grace is the goodness or "kindness" of God (Romans 2:4; Psalms 52:1). "God is love" (1 John 4:8), and "love is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV). This moral attribute of God is confirmed toward us in His sympathetic interest in our eternal well-being.
through Christ Jesus: In Christ is where all spiritual blessings are found (1:3). In and through Jesus Christ, God demonstrates His love (2:4), kindness, and grace (Romans 5:8).
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
For by grace: The basis of our salvation is the grace of God. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11 NASB).
are ye saved: "Saved" here is in the perfect tense and is talking about the present, not the potential. The verb "saved" is found in other tenses as well. Believers "were saved" (aorist tense, Romans 8:24), "are being saved" (present tense, 1 Corinthians 1:18), and "will be saved" (future tense, Romans 5:9-10). (See also Boles 224.)
"The perfect tense does not, however, address the issue of future permanence. Those who are saved cannot use this verse to guarantee salvation if they later choose to abandon their faith" (Boles 226).
through faith: Grace is God’s part: faith is ours (Robertson 525)! Faith here is a conviction and belief in God (Thayer 513). Jesus makes it our responsibility to believe when He says, "...unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24 NASB). We know that "...without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6 NASB). God holds us accountable to respond in faith to the testimony concerning Christ (Romans 10:17; John 20:30-31; John 8:24).
We know that saving faith is a faith that works (Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-26). (See also John 6:28-29.)
and that not of yourselves: What is the "that" of this passage? Is it "grace," "saved," "faith," or all three? There are some who think that faith is a direct gift of God (MacArthur 61; Hendriksen 121-122), but this is Calvinistic theology.
Since "faith" is a word of feminine gender, and "this" and "it" are neuter gender, normal grammar disallows referring back to "faith." For the same reason "this" cannot refer back to the feminine word "grace." It is more likely that the neuter words refer to the entire situation of salvation..(cf. Acts 11:18) (Boles 226).
Salvation is not of yourselves, lest we boast (Isaiah 59:15-20). The idea that man can save himself without God and the concept of being saved by the grace of God are two mutually exclusive ideas. They cannot co-exist. In one, man’s righteousness and value are put forth as a basis for salvation (Romans 4:4), and the other is totally dependent on God’s lovingkindness (Psalms 36:7; Psalms 86:15).
it is the gift of God: We cannot say something is earned and is charity or a gift at the same time. Salvation is either enjoyed as a result of earned "wages" and, therefore, justly ours (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18), or it is a gift, unearned and, therefore, to be appreciated as evidence of the unmerited favor of God. Paul says, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due" (Romans 4:4 NASB). But a Christian understands "...the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23 NASB). Our condemnation is earned, but our salvation is unearned. Because of God’s grace, salvation is an offered gift from God available to all men. Paul’s letter to Titus teaches, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11 NASB). This verse is not teaching universal salvation for all men but is merely stating salvation by grace is offered to all men. Unfortunately, even though this gift is offered to "all men," not everyone will reach out to accept this gift. All can accept this gift when they through faith obey the Lord (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 10:34-35).
"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace" (Romans 11:6 NASB).
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Not of works: Salvation is not a result of works. The idea that salvation can be based on something other than grace is deliberated in Paul’s letter to the Romans: "Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but what is due" (Romans 4:4 NASB). If a man believes his works are going to earn him salvation, then heaven is reckoned as what he is owed for doing good works. He believes heaven is for those who earn it. For those who think that salvation can be earned, God emphatically states "not of works."
No amount of good works can make up for our evil works. Keeping the law most of the time does not remove the guilt of breaking the law some of the time (James 2:10-12). Many in the world think that on Judgment Day God will weigh out on a scale our good deeds and bad deeds. If the good outweighs the bad, we get to go to heaven. This myth is not of God but from the imagination of man. No meritorious acts of service or meritorious obedience to any law will atone for sin. The consequence or "wages" (Romans 6:23) of one sin is death. God, who is separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26; Isaiah 59:2), must remain separate from sin in order to remain holy (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15-17). Holy means being separate from sin. Heaven is also a holy place (Isaiah 57:15; Psalms 11:4). The only way we will get to enjoy heaven or the fellowship of the Holy God is to be separated from our sins (Psalms 103:12; 1 John 3:5). We are made holy only by God’s forgiving our sins (John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Peter 2:9-10). We cannot make ourselves holy. We cannot forgive ourselves. God must forgive us if we are to be holy (Titus 2:11; Hebrews 5:9).
Paul customarily uses the term "not of works" to speak of the "works of the law" (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16).
lest any man should boast: "When men do try to work their way into God’s favor, one of two things will happen. Sincere, honest men will despair of ever succeeding; smug, ignorant men will boast. Paul addresses the second situation, showing that God’s way of salvation eliminates human boasting" (Boles 227). The basis of salvation is not our works or our worth. Anyone who would make a claim or take the credit for their salvation displaces Christ as their Savior (see 1 Corinthians 1:29-31; Romans 3:24-27; Romans 9:16; Galatians 6:14).
The next verse is going to show that even when we do good works (which obviously some desire to trust in for salvation), they are part of God’s plan to save us. Therefore, since the impetus of our good works is God, we have nothing to boast about. Even our good works are part of God’s plan.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
For we are his workmanship: We are God’s "workmanship," or that which God has made (Thayer 527). "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (creation); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB). God works through forgiveness to craft a new life for us, a life with a new purpose--doing good. Jesus says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NASB). We are to do our works "in such a way" that instead of our receiving the glory, God does.
created in Christ Jesus unto good works: Good works are the fruit, not the root, of the tree of salvation (Bruce 291). Even though our salvation is not based on meritorious good works (2:8-9), our faith will not save us if it does not work (James 2:22; Philippians 2:12; Galatians 5:6; John 5:29). Our faith is not a meritorious act, for it is in obedience to God (John 6:28-29; John 8:24).
Faith is a choice, a conviction, not a feeling (Hebrews 11:1). God provides the means by which we have faith, the word of God (Romans 10:17; John 20:30-31; Acts 15:7; John 17:20). We are accountable to respond to the testimony of the word with faith (John 8:24; John 6:28-29). Faith is an act of obedience.
We are to be a people zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). Titus is told to remind those who believe in God to "be careful to engage in good deeds" (Titus 3:8 NASB). We are to "learn to engage in good deeds" (Titus 3:14 NASB), and "consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24 NASB). We obey our God by doing good works. Good works are important, for they validate our faith (James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 2:12).
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them: God did not create us to be creatures who sin. Instead we were created through Christ to be "instruments of righteousness" (Romans 6:13). God is glorified not just in the process of saving us, but through our obedience to His will. God has "prepared in advance" for us to do those things that "prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2 NASB).
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Wherefore remember: The writer now appeals to the Ephesians’ memory of times past to make a point about appreciation. Sometimes we fail to value a thing because we forget what it was like without it.
that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh: The Gentiles are being considered separately from the Jews (as in 1:13 and 2:1) for the purpose of showing God’s love through Christ for all mankind.
who are called Uncircumcision: "Uncircumcision" was a term of derision used by Jews when speaking of Gentiles. Luke records, "And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, ’You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them’" (Acts 11:2-3 NASB). This term also implied the Gentiles were not in affiliation with God (Genesis 17:9-14).
by that which is called the Circumcision: It was the physical act of circumcision that symbolized the particular fellowship the Jews had with God (Genesis 17:9-14). But "...in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6 NASB).
in the flesh made by hands: This phrase emphasizes the fact that it is the superficial, external, physical circumcision that is being spoken of. This concept contrasts with Christian baptism, which is a "circumcision made without hands" (Colossians 2:11-12).
What were the blessings of being a Jew? Paul answers:
For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen (Romans 9:3-5 NASB).
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
That at that time: Paul now states the spiritual predicament in which the Gentiles found themselves prior to their being redeemed in Christ.
ye were without Christ: The Gentiles found themselves separate from Christ in that they had no share in the expectation of the Jewish Messiah.
being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel: An alien is a foreign born resident of a country within which he does not possess the priviledges of citizenship. Being a Gentile meant being excluded from the privileges of being one of God’s chosen people and thereby being excluded from the advantages of citizenship in God’s kingdom (Romans 3:1-2).
and strangers from the covenants of promise: What were the covenants that held a promise, and what was the nature of the promise? In the Old Testament there were many covenants made between God and men. Contextually the writer seems to be referring to the covenants that held a promise of the coming Messiah, the ones that had their fulfillment in the salvation of Christ (See Genesis 22:15-18; Galatians 3:15-16; Genesis 26:1-4). In these covenants the Gentiles were increasingly left ignorant. God chose the nation of Israel to make His significant promises to:
For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 14:2 NASB).
Further in the letter of Ephesians, it is clarified when Paul writes:
...walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them... (4:17-18 NASB).
The Gentiles were "strangers" to these covenants that held a promise of reconciliation to God.
having no hope: The promised Savior was not to come from among the Gentiles. Jesus says to a Samaritan woman, "You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22 NASB). (See Romans 9:4-5; Isaiah 2:2-4.)
This passage is not teaching that all Gentiles who lived before Christ are spiritually lost (Romans 2:13-15; Romans 2:25-29; Romans 3:28-30; Romans 4:9-12; Romans 9:30-31).
and without God in the world: They were without the covenants of promise. Boles writes:
Though they (Gentiles) may not have been aware of their hopeless state previously, now as Christians they can "remember" and realize how pitiable they were...Notwithstanding their many gods, they knew not God the Father, and he knew them not as sons. The list of alienation is complete:
Gentiles by birth
Separate from Christ
Excluded from citizenship
Foreigners to the covenants
Without God (Boles 230).
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
But now in Christ Jesus: Into all this hopelessness (2:12) comes the refreshing phrase "but now." Now there is hope "in Christ Jesus."
ye who sometimes were far off: This phrase refers to a prophecy found in Isaiah and affirms its fulfillment in Christ:
"...I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near," says the Lord, "and I will heal him" (Isaiah 57:18-19 NASB).
This prophecy is also alluded to in Acts: "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (Acts 2:39 NASB).
Those who "were far off" were Gentiles, formerly considered foreigners (see 2:17).
are made nigh by the blood of Christ: Gentiles have been brought near by the fact that Jesus also died for the Gentiles. ("Blood," see notes on 1:7; 2:16)
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
For he is our peace: Jesus Himself is the author and provider of our peace. Before Christ, there was a critical distinction between Jews and Gentiles that led to all kinds of divisive attitudes. Paul now explains how Jesus "broke down" this division and created peace.
who hath made both one: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28 NASB).
A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11 NASB).
and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us: The New American Standard Bible translates this as "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall."
An illustration of the barrier, the middle wall of partition, between Jews and Gentiles before the Christian age can be seen in the signs placed at the gates leading into the inner courts of the temple in Jerusalem, warning the Gentiles not to go farther. One sign read, "No foreigner is allowed within that balustrade and embankment about the sanctuary. Whoever is caught (violating this rule) will be personally responsible for his ensuing death" (Fields 68).
The Museum of Constantinople has one such placard, discovered in 1871. Kenneth Boles notes that on these large signs the words were "...chiseled into stone, with red paint to make the warning more bold" (Boles 233). Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the first century, describes the dividing wall as being about five feet high (Patzia 194). Acts records that those who started a riot against Paul cited Paul as having violated this "dividing wall" prohibition:
Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place (Acts 21:28 NASB).
This dividing wall is used symbolically of the segregation that was created by the law between Jew and Gentile. Jesus breaks this separating wall down.
Later in this chapter the writer is going to tell the Gentiles they are an important part of the new temple (2:21-22).
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Having abolished: The word "abolished" here means "to cause to cease, put an end to, do away with, annul, abolish" (Thayer 336). Christ’s death made the law null and void.
in his flesh the enmity: It is the death of Christ’s "fleshly body" (Colossians 1:22) on the cross (Colossians 2:14) that nullifies the law, the core of the racial hostility between Jew and Gentile.
even the law of commandments: Christ abolishes the Law basically for two reasons: (1) to create one body, one family of both Jew and Gentile, and (2) to reconcile them both to God in that body (2:16). (See 2 Corinthians 3:6.)
contained in ordinances: "...having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14 NASB).
for to make in himself: The idea here is that the body of Christ, that is the church, was made or created by Christ. It is Christ’s design to unite Jew and Gentile and all those forgiven by God "in himself," that is "in Christ" (2:13).
of twain one new man: As the Gentiles and Jews are added to the one body (2:16) of Christ, there is created one new man. Christ’s body is not divided (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Now that both Jew and Gentile can receive the forgiveness of sins and be adopted into the family of God (1:5), they are to leave behind the divisiveness of racial bigotry and find peace in their new spiritual family.
so making peace: When the old law was taken away, the segregation enforced by the law was insupportable. Christ makes one spiritual race out of Jews and Gentiles, thereby establishing peace (Galatians 6:16; Romans 2:28-29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11). When we preach the "gospel of peace" (6:15), we are not just preaching about peace, we are "preaching peace through Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:34-36).
Some of the ideas found in verses 12-15 occur again in Galatians 3:23-29.
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And that he might reconcile both unto God: When someone is reconciled to someone else, alienation comes to an end. God "...reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18 NASB). We are the offending party who needs to make peace with an offended, rightious God. It was our own sins that caused the alienation (Isaiah 59:1-2). (See Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:20-22.) Jesus reconciles "both" Jew and Gentile to each other (2:15), and, more importantly, reconciles us to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
in one body: This one "body" is the one church (1:22-23). Perhaps God could have chosen to try to keep the peace between Jews and Gentiles by making a Jewish church and a Gentile church. This method seems to be man’s solution to unity problems, but it is not God’s way (Isaiah 55:9). God’s way is to "reconcile both to God in one body" (see notes on 1:5, 4:4).
by the cross: "And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24 NASB).
having slain the enmity thereby: Jesus put to death, through reconciliation with God and man, the hostility (Colossians 1:21) of our self-centered heart.
The New American Standard translates this verse, "and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity."
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
And came and preached peace to you: This verse is citing Isaiah 57:19 and testifying as to its fulfillment in Christ. Jesus is the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). When reconciliation is preached (2:16), peace is preached. (See Acts 10:36.)
which were afar off: Those "afar off" are the Gentiles (2:12). This passage affirms the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Isaiah 57:19. Paul alludes to this significant prophecy to prove it has always been God’s plan to save the Gentiles in the same "body" as the Jews (see notes on 2:13).
and to them that were nigh: Those who "were nigh" are those already familiar with the true God, the Jews.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
The reference in this verse to all three members of the Godhead should be noticed. (See also 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 5:18-20.)
For through him: Jesus is our access to the Father (2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 5:18). Jesus announces, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6 NASB).
we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father: Now everyone, Jew and Gentile, has a "way of approach and introduction" to the Father, that is "by one Spirit." There is not one Spirit for the Jew and a different one for the Gentile, for "we both have access by one Spirit." It is by this one Spirit that we can both address God by the family name "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:6).
How do we gain this access by the Spirit? The scriptures teach, "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NASB). (See Patzia 198.)
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners: Gentiles are now no longer "strangers" to the covenants of promise (2:12).
but fellowcitizens with the saints: The Gentiles are not just to be tolerated in the body but are to be regarded as "fellowcitizens" (literally "co-citizens") with all other saints.
and of the household of God: Instead of merely acknowledging the Gentiles’ right to be in the kingdom, Paul now affirms the Gentiles are members of the family of God. This imagery is far more warm and intimate than the legal stipulations of citizenship. Jew and Gentile are now kinsmen or family. (See Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 4:17.)
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
And are built upon: The entire body of believers is compared to the building of a temple in this metaphor.
the foundation of the apostles and prophets: This "foundation" undoubtedly refers to the teachings and writings delivered by these inspired men (Acts 2:42; John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) rather than the men themselves.
In the book of Revelation, the holy city’s wall has "twelve foundation stones" that represent "the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:14). Paul says,
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11 NASB).
The apostles viewed their revelatory work as foundational for the building of the church.
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: Of the many metaphors ascribed to Christ, the "chief corner stone" is one of the most vivid. In ancient construction there was a prominent, weight bearing stone chosen from which the rest of the structure was laid out and kept unified (Fields 72). This rock was the focal point of the whole structure. This figure lucidly describes the relationship Christ has with His church. Without "the rock," that is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4; Matthew 16:16-18), there would be no church. From Him the whole structure of the church is laid out and kept unified.
There are two basic lines of thought on the nature of this "corner stone." One is, as we have described, a large weight bearing stone from which the rest of the structure is laid out. Another point of view is that the word "corner stone" should be translated "head of the corner" or "capstone" that is placed at the summit or apex of a building to crown its completion. Those who subscribe to this position submit that "this is a more fitting explanation of the thought in Ephesians, where Christ is the head of the body (1:22) and the church grows into him who is the head (4:15)" (Patzia 202).
The context, however, seems to suggest the first interpretation should be embraced. Notice, the next verse continues the imagery, suggesting that based upon a foundation something is rising or growing to become a building, not something already and built ready to be capped.
Note: Some may group all the metaphors together that speak of Christ in relationship to a building and become confused becaused Jesus is portrayed as a foundation and also a chief corner stone. The meaning given a metaphor in one passage does not need to be followed inflexibly in another passage. In John’s gospel Jesus is a shepherd, a lamb, and a door to the fold. Each metaphor is used to emphasize a different aspect of truth involving our relationship with Christ.
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom all the building fitly framed together: "In him the whole building is joined together (NIV)." The unity we have with one another in the church is based upon the Lord (4:3-6). Christians bound together become a structure dedicated and sanctified for the Lord’s use (see notes on 4:16).
groweth unto an holy temple: A better translation would be "is growing into," or "it rises to become" a holy temple. This whole building, consisting of Christians from any race, rises as each is added to another becoming a temple for God (Acts 2:47).
in the Lord: Because of our relationship with Christ, we participate in His great work.
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
In whom ye also are builded together: This passage is a reminder to the Gentiles that they are part of God’s temple. This was great news to the Gentiles. They had been specifically excluded from the physical temple (2:14); now they are specifically included in the spiritual temple. They are "living stones" (1 Peter 2:4-8) in the spiritual building God occupies. Each living stone makes its own contribution to the growth and utility of the building (4:16).
for an habitation of God through the Spirit: This building, which is Christ’s church, becomes a place for God to inhabit (2 Corinthians 6:16).
Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NASB).
The word "you" in this passage is in the plural and is speaking of the church, contextually the church at Corinth.