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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Ephesians 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

Ephesians 2:1. καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς κ.τ.λ. The sentence is broken off to be resumed again, Ephesians 2:5, in a phrase καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν, in which the Jews are put on the same level as the Gentile Christians and the verb which was in St Paul’s mind when he began the sentence is at last expressed. The Epistle is peculiarly full on the state of the heathen before the Gospel. The figure of death to describe the present consequences of sin and the present condition of the unrepentant sinner is found in Romans 6:13; Romans 7:10, and most vividly in Romans 7:24. It is found in words of the Lord Matthew 8:22 = Luke 9:60; Luke 15:24; Luke 15:32; John 5:24 f.; cf. Revelation 3:1. It recurs naturally here and in Ephesians 5:14; Colossians 2:13; Romans 6:11-13, where the context suggests a close connexion between our Lord’s triumph over death and our own deliverance from the power of sin. It is implied in 1 Peter 1:3 ἀναγεννήσας.

τοῖς παραπτώμασιν. Cf. on Ephesians 1:7. Even the Gentiles sinned against light, Romans 2:15.

Verses 1-10


This section corresponds to the section of thanksgiving which in all St Paul’s Epistles except Gal., 1 Tim. and Tit. follows directly after the salutation. Such a section (see Robinson’s Excursus, pp. 275 ff.) is often found in the familiar correspondence of the time as evidenced by the Egyptian papyri. In St Paul the delicate adaptation of the subjects chosen for thanksgiving to the circumstances of the persons whom he is addressing shows that his language is as far removed as possible from the formal and the conventional. In his letters the section helps to prepare the way for the teaching and even for the reproof that is to follow by its generous recognition of all that is best in his correspondents, and by bringing the whole of his communication with them from the first into the realized presence of God.

Verse 2

2. ἐν αἷς ποτὲ περιεπατήσατε. Cf. Ephesians 2:3. ἐν, ‘on the road marked out by.’ Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 4:5; 2 John 1:4; 2 John 1:6; cf. Luke 1:17. See also Ephesians 2:10.

κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κ.τ.λ. The deliverance effected for us in Christ is not merely from a state of individual death, it is from an evil environment and from the grip of an evil power which keeps us in a common slavery.

κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, ‘according to the age of this world.’ This phrase describes the old evil environment. Sometimes St Paul speaks of it simply as ‘this age.’ As in Romans 12:2, where he warns us against the power which a non-Christian public opinion still possesses to mould our acts and words after its own fashion, and in Galatians 1:4, where he is speaking of the power from which we have at least potentially been delivered. In the Epistles this use of αἰών is confined to the Pauline Epistles. It is found also in Luke 16:8; Luke 20:34; cf. Matthew 13:22 and parallels. In 1 Corinthians 3:19 we find ὁ κόσμος οὗτος which occurs elsewhere only in St John, e.g. John 12:31. It suggests the thought of society organized in independence of God.

κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος. This worldly environment is regarded as being in subjection to a spiritual head. Cf. Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13.

τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος. This has been taken (see Abbott in loc.) to mean ‘the power’ or ‘powers’ whose seat is in the air, ἡ ἐξουσία being used as in Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 6:12 of the person exercising the dominion. This would have the advantage of supplying a natural apposition for τοῦ πνεύματος. It is, however, possible that ἡ ἐξουσία expresses simply ‘the sphere of influence,’ as e.g. Luke 23:7 ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας Ἡρῴδου. The air in The Ascension of Isaiah is the special seat of Beliar, the ruler of this world, iv. 2, vi. 13, vii. 9, x. 29. These passages are all in the part ascribed by Charles to a Christian writer: but there seems no reason to regard them as dependent on St Paul. The passage quoted from Test. Benj. iii. 4 ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀερίου πνεύματος τοῦ Βελίαρ appears in some texts (see Charles) without the critical word ἀερίου. The variant, however, whencesoever derived, illustrates the prevalence of the same conception of the lower air as the special seat of Satanic and demonic influence.

τοῦ πνεύματος. In strict grammar this is in apposition to τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος and dependent on τὸν ἄρχοντα. This would imply a gradation of rank in the Satanic kingdom, which might be illustrated by the relation between the Dragon and the two Beasts in Revelation 13, and more remotely by Mark 3:22 ff. Cf. also the demonology of the Test. XII. Patr. It is, however, quite possible that it is really in apposition to τὸν ἄρχοντα.

τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος. Of the activity of spiritual powers of evil here only in the active in N.T. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 κατʼ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ and the use of ἐνεργούμενος in cases of ‘possession’ in patristic Greek. A close parallel is supplied by Test. XII. Patr., Dan Ephesians 2:5 καὶ ὡς ἂν ἀποστήσεσθε ἀπὸ Κυρίου, ἐν πάσῃ κακίᾳ πορευόμενοι ποιήσετε τὰ βδελύγματα τῶν ἐθνῶν ἐκπορνεύοντες ἐν γυναιξὶν ἀνόμων καὶ ἐν πάσῃ πονηρίᾳ ἐνεργούντων ἐν ὑμῖν τῶν πνευμάτων τῆς πονηρίας.

ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθίας. Cf. Ephesians 5:6, and τέκνα ὑπακοῆς, 1 Peter 1:14, with Hort’s note: ‘ἡ ἀπειθία (the disobedience) is probably intended as a collective term for the moral anarchy of heathenism (compare the analogous collective term ἡ πλάνη in Ephesians 4:14; 1 John 4:6; and probably ἡ ἀπάτη, Ephesians 4:22), “the sons of the disobedience” being opposed to “the sons of the Kingdom” (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:38).… Those are called sons or children of an impersonal object, who draw from it the impulses or principles which mould their lives from within, and who are as it were its visible representatives and exponents to others in their acts and speech.’

Verse 3

3. ἐν οἷς καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε. The Jews, in spite of their outward separation from the ‘sinners of the Gentiles’ (Galatians 2:15), were in heart one with them, cf. Romans 3:23.

ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν. Cf. 1 Peter 1:14; 1 Peter 2:11 with Hort’s notes: ‘The flesh according to St Paul includes far more than sensuality.’ It is in fact the self-regarding and self-assertive principle in human nature which claims satisfaction for every appetite or desire without regard to the claims either of God or our neighbour. St Paul regards being ‘in the flesh,’ i.e. subject to its dominion, as the ‘natural state’ of man (Romans 7:5; Romans 8:9). Deliverance from the tyranny of the flesh is found only in proportion as a man realizes his union with the Crucified (Galatians 5:24) and so passes under the dominion of the Spirit. This identification with the Crucified is represented in Colossians 2:11 as the reality of which circumcision was the type.

ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα. Cf. Acts 13:22, ‘the varying decisions.’

τῶν διανοιῶν, ‘quot homines tot sententiae.’ The intellectual faculty needs regeneration, cf. Ephesians 4:18; Colossians 1:21; 1 John 5:20; Genesis 8:21 ἡ διάνοια τ. ἀνθρώπου ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρά.

καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς. ὀργὴ in Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; James 1:19 f. = the wrath of man; here (cf. Colossians 3:6 and Ephesians 5:6) = the wrath of God. This is regarded partly as future, e.g. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (cf. Matthew 3:7 = Luke 3:7), partly as present, see esp. Romans 1:18 ff. and John 3:36. According to St Paul’s argument in Romans 1-3 Jew and Gentile alike were ὑφʼ ἁμαρτίαν, and therefore, to use St John’s figure, ‘the wrath of God’ abode upon them. And it is possible that the phrase ‘children of wrath,’ like the parallel phrases in Isaiah 10:6 ‘The people of My wrath’; Jeremiah 7:29 ‘The generation of His wrath,’ implies no more than exposed or liable to the wrath of God. The argument in Romans 1:18 ff. shows, however, that in St Paul’s view this exposure brings with it present consequences. Nor indeed can the attitude of God towards a man be a matter of indifference in the development of his life. Men who have grown up with no thought of God beyond that presented to them by their own guilty consciences cannot fail ‘to be moulded by it from within.’ It is therefore probable that St Paul uses the phrase τέκνα ὁργῆς, instead e.g. of ὑπʼ ὀργὴν, in view of this effect on character, the natural consequence of the consciousness of guilt unrelieved by any Gospel of forgiveness. He hastens to show in the next verse that ‘wrath’ is not a complete description of the attitude of God even to the sinner. φύσει, ‘when left to ourselves,’ as in Romans 2:14.

ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6. All outside the pale, in this case, of the covenant people.

Verse 4

4. πλούσιος. See note on τὸ πλοῦτος, Ephesians 1:7.

ἐν ἐλέει. Cf. Romans 15:9; Titus 3:5; Luke 1:78; and esp. 1 Peter 1:3 and the declaration of the Name of the Lord to Moses in Exodus 34:6. Mercy is not inconsistent with wrath. They are both aspects of the same love.

διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην. In his earliest Epistles (1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13) St Paul notes that the love which Jehovah had lavished on His Israel (Deuteronomy 33:12) was now shared by Gentile Christians. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16 this love is connected with the gift of ‘eternal consolation and good hope in grace.’ Elsewhere the only passages outside the Johannine writings in which the phrase occurs are in Romans 5:5; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:39; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Judges 1:21; cf. Titus 3:4 ἡ φιλανθρωπία.

ἣν ἠγάπησεν. Cognate acc. as in John 17:26 ἡ ἀγάπη ἣν ἠγάπησάς με. ἡμᾶς clearly here used inclusively.

Verse 5

5. συνεζωοποίησεν [ἐν] τῷ χριστῷ. The various readings here are of great interest and it is hard to decide between them. Either of them might quite easily have given rise to the other, though perhaps the accidental omission of εν after σεν would be slightly more probable than its accidental repetition. Intrinsically the difficulty of the phrase ἐν τῷ χριστῷ might have led to alteration. On the other hand it is possible, though not so likely, that the ἐν was inserted by assimilation to ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ in Ephesians 2:6. If ἐν is retained the συν must refer to the common quickening of all the members together in the Christ, and not to the fact of their sharing individually in His quickening. This sense of the compound seems to be required later in the phrase συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ and inferentially in the συνήγειρεν that precedes it. It is therefore difficult to give the preposition a different meaning in συνεζωοποίησεν. No doubt elsewhere in St Paul similar compounds, συνζήσομεν (Romans 6:8; 2 Timothy 2:11), συμβασιλεύσομεν (2 Timothy 2:12), συνταφέντες (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), as well as συνήγειρεν and συνεζωοποίησεν, in a closely similar context in Colossians 2:12, are used constantly of union with Christ. Yet St Paul uses both συνζῇν (2 Corinthians 7:3) and συμβασιλεύειν (1 Corinthians 4:8) in the other sense, and with συνκληρονόμα, σύνσωμα, συνμέτοχα to come in Ephesians 3:6 we cannot say that such a meaning is anything but natural in this epistle. It is better therefore to retain the ἐν. This has a further advantage as it helps to explain the change from τῷ χριστῷ to Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ in the next verse. See Additional Note on ὁ χριστός, p. 132.

χάριτί ἐστι σεσωσμένοι. A parenthetic clause to show that the blessings spoken of were already bestowed on Gentile believers in ideal completeness. Salvation (cf. on Ephesians 1:13) is here seen to include resurrection to new life and a share in the present sovereignty of Jesus Christ. The stress lies on the fact. By an act of Divine grace (independent of any works or merit or feelings on your part) you have already been brought into a state of salvation. In Ephesians 2:8 the stress lies on the method of the deliverance.

Verse 6

6. καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν. The new life in which we share is connected both with the Resurrection and with the Ascension of Christ Jesus, cf. Ephesians 1:20. The union with the Resurrection is emphasized also in Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1. Union with the Ascension is directly referred to only here; though it is implied on one side in Colossians 3:3, and on another, for the seat which we share is a throne, in passages like Romans 5:17; Revelation 5:10, which speak of Christians as exercising a present sovereignty. In Revelation 3:21 the promise of sharing His throne seems to be projected into the future.

Verse 7

7. ἵνα ἐνδείξηται, ‘to display as a trait of his own character.’

ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις. Cf. Ephesians 1:21 τῷ μέλλοντι and Ephesians 3:21. ‘The ages that are coming on.’ There is a vista ahead to which no limit can be assigned. There is nothing to show that in St Paul’s view the earth would pass away before these ages could begin. With ἐπερχ. cf. Luke 21:26; James 5:1; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 41:22 f., Isaiah 42:23, Isaiah 44:7, Isaiah 45:11.

τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος. Cf. Ephesians 1:19.

ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς. ‘By His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ Christ Jesus is the embodiment of God’s loving-kindness to us. χρηστότης, a fairly common word in the LXX. Psalms, used Romans 11:22, Titus 3:4 of the loving-kindness manifested in the salvation of men (cf. Hort on 1 Peter 2:3). It is ‘grace’ or ‘mercy’ in action.

Verse 8

8. τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι διὰ πίστεως. Emphasizing the means, as, before, the reality of the salvation. The root of our salvation lies in the declaration of God’s favour to us (cf. on Ephesians 1:6) and in the power of the consciousness of that favour over us. διὰ πίστεως, cf. Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 1:15; Ephesians 1:19; faith on man’s side is the mouth or hand by which the salvation is appropriated, cf. Romans 3:24.

καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον. This clause is best taken as parenthetical. Even the faith which is the one element which we contribute to the total result is not self-originated. It is a gift of God. Cf. Donum est Dei diligere Deum. Ipse ut diligeretur dedit, qui non dilectus diligit (Council of Orange). He inspires us with love by loving us, and with faith by believing in us and showing Himself absolutely worthy of confidence.

Verse 9

9. οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων. Here the thought reverts to the main idea, the gift of salvation. It is in no sense earned by our conformity to the requirements whether of the Law or the Gospel, cf. Romans 1-4.

ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. The exclusion of ‘boasting’ is a familiar topic in the earlier Epistles, 1 Corinthians 1:31, &c. Here only in E ph. and Col.

Verse 10

10. αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα. This raising out of death is virtually a new creation, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:16 f. The New Israel as the Old is God’s workmanship, Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:21; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 44:21.

κτισθέντες. Cf. Ephesians 4:24, Ephesians 2:15 and Hort on 1 Peter 2:13.

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17.

ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς, ‘on an understanding of,’ and as the good works lie ahead ‘with a view to.’ Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:7 are substantially similar. In each case the reference is to an implied condition.

The phrase is used in the now familiar sense of ‘works of charity’ in Acts 9:36 (the only place in Acts). In the Epistles it is limited to St Paul, Heb., and 1 Pet. (καλά: cf. Hort on 1 Pet., p. 135b). In the Gospels (only καλά) it occurs always in words of the Lord, esp. Matthew 5:16. He applied it to His own deeds of mercy (John 10:32) and to the woman who anointed His Head, Matthew 26:10; || Mark 14:6. St Peter (cf. Hort on Ephesians 2:12) gives us the clue to its meaning here. The effect of the good works is to win other men ultimately to give glory to God. As the result of His working in them Christians are a manifestation of His glory in the world.

οἷς προητοίμασεν. In Romans 9:23 ‘the vessels of mercy’ are described as prepared beforehand for ‘glory.’ This is in contrast to ‘the vessels of wrath’ prepared ‘for destruction,’ i.e. ‘for a work of destruction,’ ‘to destroy’; not ‘to be destroyed.’ It does not therefore mean merely ‘to inherit glory,’ but to manifest it. So here, the works by which the Church was to reveal God’s presence in the world are described as taken up into the Divine counsel as well as the workmen. It is therefore an anticipation of Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:21.

The thought is no doubt capable of being applied to the details of each individual life. If it is true at all it must be true universally. And we can only get the inspiration which it contains as we set ourselves to realize our personal share in it. But St Paul is here contemplating the wider issues.

Verse 11

11. Διὸ with reference to the whole preceding paragraph.

μνημονεύετε. There is a striking parallel (noticed by G. H. Whitaker) between this appeal and the appeal to Israel in Deuteronomy 5:15, &c. (cf. also Isaiah 44:21) to remember the condition out of which they had been delivered at the Exodus.

ἐν σαρκί. ‘By nature,’ without any evil connotation. Cf. Galatians 2:20, Romans 2:28.

οἱ λεγόμενοιτῆς λεγομένης. ‘Bearing the name’ with a suggestion that the reality did not correspond to the name. Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:5, and perhaps 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

περιτομῆς. For the contrast between the material and spiritual circumcision cf. Jeremiah 9:26; Acts 7:51; Romans 2:26 ff. In this group of Epistles St Paul has advanced beyond the standpoint of Gal. and Rom. It is no longer a question of enforcing circumcision on Gentile Christians. He boldly claims that the reality is with the Christian (Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11).

χειροποιήτου. This word is uniformly used of the material Temple or Tabernacle (Mark 14:58; Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:24). It is difficult not to believe that it is introduced here in intentional contrast to the Spiritual Temple which is the main subject of this section. The links with St Stephen’s speech throughout this section are remarkable (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:15).

Verses 11-22


In the last paragraph Ephesians 1:15 to Ephesians 2:10 St Paul has been recalling the spiritual forces set at work by the Resurrection and Ascension of the Christ to raise Christians out of the death of sin. His last words referred to the appropriate activities in which their newly created energies were to be employed. These activities are primarily corporate. He passes on therefore to consider the constitution of the new body in which they found themselves and its appointed function. He begins with a sketch of the spiritual isolation of the Gentile position before the Gospel.

Verse 12

12. τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ. Dative of time (Romans 16:25; 1 Timothy 2:6).

χωρὶς Χριστοῦ. The isolation of the Gentiles is defined in three relations: first, to the centre of unity: ‘apart from,’ ‘out of conscious communion with’; the natural antithesis to ἐν Χριστῷ; cf. John 15:5 χωρὶς ἐμοῦ in contrast with μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί. Cf. the complementary statements with regard to creation in John 1:3 f. It is true that Christ is the Light that lighteth every man (John 1:9) and that the head of every man is Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3), and that the revelation to St Paul which transformed his whole Theology and made him the Apostle of the Gentiles was the vision of ‘Christ in you (Gentiles), the hope of glory’; yet the relationship remained unfruitful; it was as though it was not, until it was made known and accepted. To the Jews the door had been opened from the beginning of their national existence; they partook from the first of the root of the fatness of the olive; the Gentile was a branch of a wild olive needing to be grafted in (Romans 11:17); he was out of conscious connexion with the Root till then. This separation from the Christ implied in the second place separation from the historic People of God.

ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι. In Ephesians 4:18 (cf. Colossians 1:21) the alienation is from God. Here it is from fellowship with God’s People. Cf. Psalms 68[69]:9 ἀπηλλοτριωμένος ἐγενήθην τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου καὶ ξένος τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς μητρός μου; Sirach 11:24 [26]. Nothing is said as to the responsibility for this estrangement. The fact is clear. Jew and Gentile had drifted far apart.

τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ. Cf. συμπολῖται (Ephesians 2:19); Acts 23:1; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 8:11, &c. Religious life can only find its full expression in an organized society. This idea is implicit in one side of the conception of ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ or τῶν οὐρανῶν in the Gospels; cf. on Ephesians 5:5. In βασιλεία however the thought is primarily of the sovereignty of the head, in πολιτεία the stress is on the rights and responsibilities of the members of the community. Ἰσραήλ. The title describes the nation in the light of the Divine election.

ξένοι. Strangers as such were excluded from the covenants.

τῶν διαθηκῶν. Genit. of separation. For the plur. cf. Romans 9:4. In O.T. covenants are recorded with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron, Phinehas and David, but plur. only in Sirach 44:11; Sirach 44:18; Sirach 45:17; Wisdom of Solomon 18:22. These covenants were a pledge of a present communion and an earnest of deeper blessings to come. τῆς ἐπ. Cf. Ephesians 1:13.

ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες κ.τ.λ. The third stage of their isolation is marked by spiritual exhaustion. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13. ΄ὴ, not οὐ, as describing not merely a fact of history but the characteristic of a class. ἐλπίδα. Anarthrous; not merely with no hold on the hope of Israel, but with hope itself dead. Cf. 1 Peter 1:3 (Hort’s note).

ἄθεοι. Not ‘atheists’ in our popular use of the term, but as ‘out of touch with God,’ with no sense of His presence. So 1 Thessalonians 4:5 = Jeremiah 10:25 τὰ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν, and Galatians 4:8. Cf. Orig. c. Cels. i:1, τῆς ἀθέου πολυθεότητος.

ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. This may (as in Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:9; 2 Peter 1:4; John 2:15) describe an environment in itself unfavourable to the service of God. The addition of the phrase would then heighten the impression of loneliness. On the other hand St Paul, as we know from Romans 1:20; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24, felt that the world rightly understood was a constant revelation of the power and wisdom and love of God, so that the words may reflect on the blindness of those who lived without God though surrounded on all hands by the evidence of His works. See Hort on James 1:27.

Verse 13

13. We come now to the consideration of their present condition, and first the bridging of the gulf that had separated them from God.

νυνὶ δέ. Under the new conditions introduced by the Gospel.

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. See on Ephesians 1:1. Cf. χωρὶς Χριστοῦ.

ὑμεῖς οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγενήθητε ἐγγὺς. Cf. Ephesians 2:17; Isaiah 57:19 (the promises to the contrite) εἰρήνην ἐπʼ εἰρήνην τοῖς μακρὰν καὶ τοῖς ἐγγὺς οὖσιν. So also Daniel 9:7 (Theod.) ἀνδρὶ Ἰούδα καὶ τοῖς ἐνοικοῦσιν ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ παντὶ Ἰσραήλ, τοῖς ἐγγὺς καὶ τοῖς μακρὰν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ οὗ διέσπειρας (LXX. διεσκόρπισας). The prophetic reference to those far off in the first instance would seem to have been to Israelites in the Dispersion. The local separation from the Sanctuary was however the outward sign of a spiritual estrangement, and the transition to the Gentiles was easy. Cf. John 11:52 τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ τὰ διεσκορπισμένα. The language of Isa. loc. cit. colours also St Peter’s language on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:39), πᾶσι τοῖς εἰς μακράν, where the reference to the Gentiles is implicit rather than expressed. ἐγγὺς γενέσθαι is a Rabbinic phrase for the reception of a proselyte.

ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ χριστοῦ. Cf. Ephesians 1:7, and see Additional Note on τὸ αἷμα, p. 113. The Blood here is primarily the Blood of the New Covenant by which the Gentiles were united in a living bond to God. The parallel phrase in Colossians 1:20 lays stress on the estrangement that had to be overcome. The same death that brought men back to God brought them back to one another (John 11:51 f.). Cf. Hort on 1 Peter 1:2.

The blood shed was the symbol of a surrendered will. So St Paul passes on to consider the personal share of Christ in this transformation of the Gentile position. Christ has been represented as the radiating centre of the Divine forces at work in man’s redemption, but the work itself has hitherto been ascribed to God.

Verse 14

14. Αἰτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν. Cf. Micah 5:5; Isaiah 9:6. It is characteristic of this group of Epistles that the effect should be regarded as due in the first instance to what Christ is in Himself rather than to any specific acts performed by Him. His doings and sufferings have their power not, if we may so speak, for their own sake, but from the light which they throw on the nature and character of the doer and the sufferer. All that He achieved was already implied in what He was. To know Him (Philippians 3:10) is at once the goal and the inspiration of the highest moral endeavour. In this sense it may even be true to say that the Incarnation is the Atonement. Controversy with false teachers at Colossae had shown afresh the importance of a right understanding of Christ both as the Image of the invisible God and as the Head at once of the created Universe and the Church. It is characteristic of Ephes. that the power at work reconciling man to man and man to God should be traced back to its source in the same Personality. Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30. Peace is personified in Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15.

ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν κ.τ.λ. The main purpose of this sentence is clear, though the relation of its parts cannot be precisely determined. It is best on the whole to take τὴν ἔχθραν (1°) as governed by λύσας and explanatory of τὸ μ. τ. φ. So the stichometry of D, and Origen. then τὸν ν. τ. ἐντ. ἐν δ. κατ. is a subordinate clause showing how He destroyed the enmity, viz. ‘by abolishing the Law.’

The alternative is to throw the weight of the sentence on καταργήσας, ‘He made the two systems one, and destroyed the wall … by abolishing.’ This treats τὸν νόμον τ. ἐντ. ἐν δ. as = τὴν ἔχθραν. It is difficult, however, to believe that St Paul would have regarded them as interchangeable in this way.

τὰ ἀμφότερατοὺς ἀμφοτέρους. He speaks first of the abolition of the distinction between the systems (cf. John 4:21 ff.). The union between the men moulded by the systems follows.

τὸ μεσότοιχον. The barrier in the Temple at Jerusalem, which it was death for the uncircumcised to pass, aptly symbolized the division. The reference further prepares the way for the thought of the one true Spiritual Temple with which the paragraph concludes.

λύσας. See Intr., p. lxxxviii. λύω has at the same time a recognized use in connexion with ἔχθραν.

ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ. ‘In the humanity that He assumed at His Incarnation,’ not of course simply by appearing in the flesh but by offering it on behalf of all on the Cross (cf. Colossians 1:22, ἀποκατήλλαξεν ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ). References to the ‘Flesh’ of Christ to describe His Human Nature, familiar to us from John 1:14, are rare in St Paul (Romans 8:3; 1 Timothy 3:16). For σάρξ as constituting the reconciling offering cf. John 6:51. Origen writes τοῦτο οὖν τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ ἔχθρα τύγχανον ἐλύθη διὰ τοῦ ἐνηνθρωπηκέναι τὸν σωτῆρα ἡμῶν καὶ διὰ τοῦτο λέγεται λέλυσθαι ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ.

Verse 15

15. τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν. This phrase would be unintelligible apart from the comment provided by Colossians 2:14; Colossians 2:20. This clear parallel however shows that St Paul is thinking of the Law as a code of precisely formulated precepts requiring to be kept to the letter, cf. Romans 7. In Col. men were in danger of going back to a legalistic system of external regulations as the secret of sanctification, and St Paul has to speak of the Law under that aspect as ‘nailed to the Cross.’ Here the Law regarded in the same aspect is seen to be a dividing force among men until it is abrogated.

ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὑτῷ εἰς ἔνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιῶν εἰρήνην. ‘In order that He might fashion (create) the two in Himself into one new man by making peace.’ Cf. Ezekiel 37:19 καὶ ἔσονται εἰς ῥάβδον μίαν. The result of bringing together the two hitherto divided elements by taking each into vital union with Himself is the production of a new united and perfected Humanity of which the Church is the appointed witness and embodiment and instrument. For κτίσῃ cf. Psalms 101[102]:19; Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 54:16; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 46:11.

See Additional Note, p. 133, on the source of St Paul’s doctrine of the unity of the Church.

Verse 16

16. καὶ ἀποκαταλλάξη τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ. Cf. Colossians 1:22 ἀποκατήλλαξεν ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου. The difference between these passages should be noticed as well as the resemblance. In Col. the reference is to a single act of reconciliation wrought by our Lord when He died in His earthly body. In Ephes. the reference is to the application of the power of that act in bringing Jew and Gentile now united in one body, Christ’s mystical body, into a state of reconciliation with God. The reconciliation of man to man is a condition precedent to reconciliation to God. Cf. Matthew 5:24; Matthew 18:35.

ἀποκτείνας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν αὐτῷ. St Paul now comes back to the point from which he had digressed. ἐν αὐτῷ sc. τῷ στ. as in Colossians 2:15.

Verse 17

17. ἐλθὼν κ.τ.λ. The glad tidings of peace are the fruits of the Passion. So the ‘coming’ can only refer to the appearances after the Resurrection (so Bengel). The aorists (both ἐλθὼν and εὐηγγελίσατο) suggest a reference to a period now closed. It can hardly therefore refer primarily to the present work of the exalted Christ through the Spirit. εἰρήνη ὑμῖν was the Risen Lord’s greeting to His Apostles on the first Easter evening (John 20:19); and the commission to preach remission of sins in His Name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem, recorded by St Luke (Luke 24:47), exactly satisfies St Paul’s language here. It is worth notice that the same passage from Isaiah 57:19 is referred to by St Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:39). ἔρχομαι is used by our Lord of His own return from the grave (John 14:18 f.).

Verse 18

18. ὅτι διʼ αὐτοῦ κ.τ.λ. This clause explains ‘the way of peace.’ The Father is the source of peace (cf. Ephesians 1:2). Peace is to be enjoyed only in communion with Him. Through Christ we have obtained the right of entry into the Father’s Presence, and in the power of the one Spirit with which Christ according to His promise fills our hearts we go hand in hand to exercise our privilege.

τὴν προσαγωγὴν., Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2. Cf. 1 Peter 3:18.

ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι., 1 Corinthians 12:13; Philippians 1:27; corresponding naturally to ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι (Ephesians 2:16). Notice the ‘dynamic’ force of the phrase. It implies a true ‘possession.’ The Spirit cannot be present and inactive. See Intr., pp. lxv ff.

πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. Cf. Ephesians 3:14. This use of ὁ πατήρ absolutely as a title for God is rare in St Paul (Romans 6:4; and perhaps Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6). It is common in St John not only in recorded words of our Lord but also in Epp. and in the narrative of Ev.; not in Apoc.

St Paul has now completed his exposition of the bridging of the gulf between Jew and Gentile, and the thought of the worship of the Father in which the restored communion among men culminates leads him on naturally to the thought of the Church as the true Spiritual Temple finding her highest function in providing a true home for God upon earth.

Verse 19

19. Ἄρα οὖν. See Voc., p. 136.

ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι. Cf. Hort on Biblical terms for Sojourning (1 Pet., pp. 154 ff.). ‘Strangers,’ as citizens of another city. ‘Sojourners,’ as only neighbours for a time.

συνπολῖται. Compound unclassical. Cf. Lightfoot on συνηλ., Galatians 1:14.

οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf. Galatians 6:10. Members of the family of God. Cf. οἶκος in 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:2 ff.; 1 Peter 4:17.

Verse 20

20. ἐποικοδομηθέντες. The use of οἰκοδομή and οἰκοδομεῖν in a purely metaphorical sense to describe moral ‘edification’ is common enough in St Paul, but the application of the figure of a building as a direct illustration of the constitution of the Church and of the relation of the members in it to one another is rare. Apart from its use in Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16 with its parallel in Colossians 2:7, it is not found in St Paul except in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, where the building in Ephesians 2:9 and Ephesians 2:17 is the community, though in Ephesians 2:12-15 the building material would seem to be the doctrines of the Teacher-Builders. There is a similar ambiguity in Matthew 7:17.

In the rest of the N.T. the figure holds a prominent place in three important Words of the Lord. First in the Word recorded by St John in answer to the request for a sign after the cleansing of the Temple: ‘Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days,’ which became in popular report, ‘I will build another made without hands’ (Mark 14:58; cf. Mark 15:29). Then in the words that greeted Simon Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi: ‘On this rock I will build my ecclesia’ (Matthew 16:18). Lastly the quotation from Psalms 118:22 with regard to the Stone which the builders refused, and which yet became the head of the corner (Mark 12:10 and plls.; cf. Acts 4:11). This last passage is probably in St Paul’s mind as well as Isaiah 28:16 when he speaks of the ἀκρογωνιαῖον. It seems not improbable that the first suggested the idea of the Christian Church as the true Temple, which we find in Ephesians 2:21. The thought in this form (ναός) is peculiar to St Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16 f., Ephesians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). It is the conclusion towards which St Stephen’s defence before the Sanhedrin was leading all through. It is found also in close connexion with a reference to the chief cornerstone in 1 Peter 2:5 (οἶκος). St James also in the Conference at Jerusalem (Acts 15:16) quotes a kindred passage from Amos 9:11 with reference to the re-building of ‘the tabernacle of David.’ In Revelation 21:16 the New Jerusalem reproduces the proportions of the Holy of Holies; but ‘the Lord God Almighty was the Temple of it, and the Lamb.’ This remarkable combination is best explained by common dependence on a Word of the Lord, and we know the sense in which St John at least after the Resurrection came to understand this Word (John 2:21). The second Word has, I believe, also left its trace on St Paul’s thought here. The reference to the ‘Apostles and Prophets’ as foundation stones (which again has an interesting pll. in Revelation 21:14) is not easy to account for in the writing of one who claimed himself (Ephesians 1:1) to be an Apostle. It is distinctly easier from this point of view and would tend to give greater weight to the whole argument if St Paul is consciously appealing to an aspect of the Apostolic office which had been authoritatively defined by the Lord Himself.

θεμελίῳ. Elsewhere (1 Corinthians 3:10; Romans 15:20; Hebrews 6:1) the ‘foundation’ is a foundation of doctrine. Here however Jesus Christ Himself and not faith in Him or any doctrine about Him is the ‘chief Corner Stone’ and the Temple is built of human hearts (cf. 1 Peter 2:4 f.). So the Apostles and Prophets must be themselves the foundation. By their witness in life and word and deed to Jesus and the Resurrection men were led to believe in Jesus as Christ and Lord and to take their place in the Temple of His Body, so that in a real sense each fresh ‘living stone’ added to the structure rested upon them.

τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν. The recurrence of the phrase in Ephesians 3:5 of men to whom a revelation had recently been granted seems to preclude any reference to the Prophets of the O.T. The titles of course are not mutually exclusive. St Paul claims, as we have seen (Ephesians 1:1), to be an Apostle. He is also called a Prophet (Acts 13:1). But St Paul’s object is to help the Gentiles to realize their connexion with and their indebtedness to those who had been in Christ before them and by whose labours they had been brought in. There is point therefore in an express reference to the ‘Prophets’ by whose agency, far more apparently than by any direct Apostolic preaching, Asia Minor had received the Gospel. If they included Gentiles as well as Jews, so much the better for St Paul’s argument. On the evangelization of this district cf. 1 Peter 1:12; Colossians 1:7.

ἀκρογωνιαίου,, 1 Peter 2:6 (see Hort’s note) from Isaiah 28:16; cf. κεφαλὴ γωνίας, Psalms 118:22. The corner-stone of the foundation, not as we might imagine from the phrase ‘head of the corner,’ the cornerstone of the topmost course. Still it has an office not unlike that of the keystone in an arch. In 1 Corinthians 3:11 ‘Jesus Christ,’ i.e. faith in the Messiahship of Jesus, is the whole foundation of the Apostolic teaching. Here, if the figure is to be pressed, Jesus Christ Himself is regarded in the light of that which He had in common with His believing followers; just as in 1 Peter 2:4 He is represented as a ‘Living Stone’ knit into one with other ‘Living Stones.’ In His Humanity first by virtue of His perfect faith and obedience the Spirit found a permanent home among men (John 1:33).

Verse 21

21. ἐν ᾧ. Cf. 1 Peter 2:4 πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι. The secret of harmonious growth is in the personal link which, however mediated, unites each part of the fabric with the chief Corner Stone.

πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ. Not ‘all the building’ regarded as a completed whole, nor ‘every building’ as if the whole structure was, like the Temple at Jerusalem, composed of a collection of buildings each in a measure complete in itself, but ‘each course in the building,’ or even every stone in itself. Cf. Mark 13:1 f. ποταποὶ λίθοι καὶ ποταπαὶ οἰκοδομαιβλέπεις ταύτας τὰς οἰκοδομάς; οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον.

συναρμολογουμένη. Cf. Ephesians 4:16. The word fits both the body and the building; but the meaning is in the first instance drawn from building. See Robinson’s note (pp. 260 ff.).

αὔξει. Cf. Ephesians 4:15 f. Here the thought of the living organism comes to the surface. Cf. ‘like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprang.’

εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ. See above. The fabric constitutes a shrine, a meeting place for God and man, the visible token of the presence of God upon earth, the spiritual reality of which the Temple at Jerusalem had been the type. Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3. ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ. The shrine owes its consecration not to any independent sanctity of the associated parts, but to the connexion of each and all with the Corner Stone now regarded as Lord.

Verse 22

22. ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς. Cf. Ephesians 1:13. St Paul comes back from the description of the Universal Fabric to the Gentile share in it.

συνοικοδομεῖσθε, ‘are builded into one structure with’ the Jew.

εἰς κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πνεύματι. St Paul singles out that function of the Temple which is at once the most primitive and has the most constraining power of consecration. Temples were not built in the first instance for the convenience of the worshippers, but as a Home for their God. The Temple at Jerusalem was built in accordance with this idea, though as St Stephen pointed out (Acts 7:48) the prophets were full of warnings against the natural tendency to confuse the symbol with the reality. But even so the Psalmists delight to speak of God as dwelling in Sion (Psalms 9:11, Psalms 74:2, Psalms 76:2), and a whole Psalm [132] is devoted to meditation on this theme in the conviction that an abiding truth was foreshadowed in it. That which the material Temple could only symbolize the Church provides in spirit and reality (cf. John 4:24). ἐν πνεύματι. To be taken with the whole phrase συν. εἰς κατ. Cf. 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13; Ephesians 3:16 f.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Ephesians 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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