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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This chapter Ephesians 2 is closely connected in sense with the preceding, and should not have been separated from it. The great object is to illustrate the subject which was commenced in the previous chapter Ephesians 2:19 - the greatness of the power of God, evinced in the salvation of his people. The "great" manifestation of his power had been in raising up the Lord Jesus from the dead. That had been connected with and followed by their resurrection from the death of sin; and the one had involved the exercise of a power similar to the other. In the illustration of this main idea, the apostle observes, Ephesians 2:1 that God had quickened those who had been dead in trespasses and sins, and proceeds Ephesians 2:2-3 to show the condition in which they were before their conversion. He then observes Ephesians 2:4-7, that God of his infinite mercy, when they were dead in sin, had quickened them together with Christ, and had raised them up to sit with him in heavenly places.
He then states that this was not by human power, but was the work of divine power, and that they were the workmanship of God, Ephesians 2:8-10. The remainder of the chapter Ephesians 2:11-22 is occupied with a statement of the privileges resulting from the mercy of God in calling them into his kingdom. The apostle endeavors to impress their minds strongly with a sense of the mercy and love and power of God in thus calling them to himself. He reminds them of their former condition when Gentiles, as being without God, and that they were now brought near by the blood of Christ Ephesians 2:11-13; he states that this had been done by one great Mediator, who came to break down the wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles, and who had now made both one Ephesians 2:14-18; and he compares them now to a temple raised for God, and to constitute the place of his dwelling on the earth; Ephesians 2:19-22. By all these considerations he endeavors to impress their minds with a sense of obligation, and to lead them to devote themselves to that God who had raised them from the dead, and had breathed into them the breath of immortal life.
1And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
And you hath he quickened - The words "hath he quickened," or "made to live," are supplied, but not improperly, by our translators. The object of the apostle is to show the great power which God had evinced toward the people Ephesians 1:19; and to show that this was put forth in connection with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and his exaltation to the right hand of God in heaven; see the notes at Romans 6:4-11; compare Colossians 2:12-13; Colossians 3:1. The words "hath he quickened" mean, hath he made alive, or made to live; John 5:21; Romans 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:36.
Who were dead in trespasses and sins - On the meaning of the word "dead," see the notes at Romans 5:12; Romans 6:2, note. It is affirmed here of those to whom Paul wrote at Ephesus, that before they were converted, they were "dead in sins." There is not anywhere a more explicit proof of depravity than this, and no stronger language can be used. They were "dead" in relation to that to which they afterward became alive - i. e., to holiness. Of course, this does not mean that they were in all respects dead. It does not mean that they had no animal life, or that they did not breathe, and walk, and act. Nor can it mean that they had no living intellect or mental powers, which would not have been true. Nor does it settle any question as to their ability or power while in that state. It simply affirms a fact - that in relation to real spiritual life they were, in consequence of sin, like a dead man in regard to the objects which are around him.
A corpse is insensible. It sees not, and hears not, and feels not. The sound of music, and the voice of friendship and of alarm, do not arouse it. The rose and the lily breathe forth their fragrance around it, but the corpse perceives it not. The world is busy and active around it, but it is unconscious of it all. It sees no beauty in the landscape; hears not the voice of a friend; looks not upon the glorious sun and stars; and is unaffected by the running stream and the rolling ocean. So with the sinner in regard to the spiritual and eternal world. He sees no beauty in religion; he hears not the call of God; he is unaffected by the dying love of the Saviour; and he has no interest in eternal realities. In all these he feels no more concern, and sees no more beauty, than a dead man does in the world around him. Such is, in "fact," the condition of a sinful world. There is, indeed, life, and energy, and motion. There are vast plans and projects, and the world is intensely active. But in regard to religion, all is dead. The sinner sees no beauty there; and no human power can arouse him to act for God, anymore than human power can rouse the sleeping dead, or open the sightless eyeballs on the light of day. The same power is needed in the conversion of a sinner which is needed in raising the dead; and one and the other alike demonstrate the omnipotence of him who can do it.
2Wherein 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 which sins, or in the practice of which transgressions.
Ye walked - You lived, life being often compared to a journey or a race. note, Romans 6:4.
According to the course of this world - In conformity with the customs and manners of the world at large. The word rendered here as "world" - αἰων aiōn - means properly "age," but is often used to denote the present world, with its cares, temptations, and desires; and here denotes particularly the people of this world. The meaning is, that they had lived formerly as other people lived, and the idea is strongly conveyed that the course of the people of this world is to walk in trespasses and sins. The sense is, that there was by nature no difference between them and others, and that all the difference which now existed had been made by grace.
According to the prince of the power of the air - see Ephesians 6:12; compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 4:4. There can be no doubt that Satan is here intended, and that Paul means to say that they were under his control as their leader and prince. The phrase, "the prince of the power," may mean either "the powerful prince," or it may mean that this prince had power over the air, and lived and reigned there particularly. The word "prince" - ἄρχοντα archonta - "Archon," means one first in authority and power, and is then applied to anyone who has the pre-eminence or rule. It is applied to Satan, or the chief of the fallen angels, as where he is called "the prince - ἄρχων archōn - of the devils," Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; "the prince of this world," John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11. But "why" he is here called the prince having power "over the air," it is not easy to determine.
Robinson (Lexicon) supposes it to be because he is lord of the powers of the air; that is, of the demons who dwell and rule in the atmosphere. So Doddridge supposes that it means that he controls the fallen spirits who are permitted to range the regions of the atmosphere. It is generally admitted that the apostle here refers to the prevailing opinions both among the Jews and pagan, that the air was thickly populated with spirits or demons. That this was a current opinion, may be seen fully proved in Wetstein; compare Bloomfield, Grotius, and particularly Koppe. Why the region of the air was supposed to be the dwelling-place of such spirits, is now unknown. The opinion may have been either that such spirits "dwelt" in the air, or that they had control over it, according to the later Jewish belief. Cocceius and some others explain the word "air" here as meaning the same as "darkness," as in profane writers. It is evident to my mind that Paul does not speak of this as a mere tradition, opinion, or vagary of the fancy, or as a superstitious belief: but that he refers to it as a thing which he regarded as true. In this opinion I see no absurdity that should make it impossible to believe it. For:
(1) the Scriptures abundantly teach that there are fallen, wicked spirits; and the existence of fallen angels is no more improbable than the existence of fallen people.
(2) the Bible teaches that they have much to do with this world. They tempted man; they inflicted disease in the time of the Saviour; they are represented as alluring and deceiving the race.
(3) they must have "some" locality - some part of the universe where they dwell. That they were not confined down to hell in the time of the Redeemer, is clear from the New Testament; for they are often represented as having afflicted and tortured people.
(4) why is there any improbability in the belief that their residence should have been in the regions of the air? That while they were suffered to be on earth to tempt and afflict people, they should have been permitted especially to occupy these! regions? Who can tell what may be in the invisible world, and what spirits may be permitted to fill up the vast space that now composes the universe? And who can tell what control may have been given to such fallen spirits over the regions of the atmosphere - over clouds, and storms, and pestilential air? People have control over the earth, and pervert and abuse the powers of nature to their own ruin and the ruin of each other. The elements they employ for the purposes of ruin and of temptation. Fruit and grain they convert to poison; minerals, to the destruction caused by war. In itself considered, there is nothing more improbable that spirits of darkness may have had control over the regions of the air, than that fallen man has over the earth; and no more improbability that that power has been abused to ruin people, than that the power of people is abused to destroy each other. No one can "prove" that the sentiment here referred to by Paul is "not" true; and no one can show how the doctrine that fallen spirits may do mischief in any part of the works of God, is anymore improbable than that wicked "men" should do the same thing. The word "power" here - "power of the air" - I regard as synonymous with "dominion or rule;" "a prince having dominion or rule over the air."
The spirit that now worketh - That still lives, and whose energy for evil is still seen and felt among the wicked. Paul here means undoubtedly to teach that there was such a spirit, and that he was still active in controlling people.
The children of disobedience - The wicked; Colossians 3:6.
3Among 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.
We all had our conversation - see the notes at 2 Corinthians 1:12; compare 1 Peter 4:3.
In the lusts of our flesh - Living to gratify the flesh, or the propensities of a corrupt nature. It is observable here that the apostle changes the form of the address from "ye" to "we," thus including himself with others, and saying that this was true of "all" before their conversion. He means undoubtedly to say, that whatever might have been the place of their birth, or the differences of religion under which they had been trained, they were substantially alike by nature. It was a characteristic of all that they lived to fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The "design" of the apostle in thus grouping himself with them was, to show that he did not claim to be any better by nature than they were, and that all which any of them had of value was to be traced to the grace of God. There is much delicacy here on the part of the apostle. His object was to remind them of the former grossness of their life, and their exposure to the wrath of God. Yet he does not do it harshly. He includes himself in their number. He says that what he affirms of them was substantially true of himself - of all - that they were under condemnation, and exposed to the divine wrath.
Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind - Margin, as in Greek, "wills." Complying with the wishes of a depraved nature. The "will of the flesh" is that to which the flesh, or the unrenewed nature of man, prompts; and Paul says that all had been engaged in fulfilling those fleshly propensities. This was clearly true of the pagan, and it was no less true of the unconverted Jew that he lived for himself, and sought to gratify the purposes of a depraved nature, though it might manifest itself in a way different from the pagan. The "will of the mind" referred to here relates to the wicked "thoughts and purposes" of the unrenewed nature - the sins which relate rather to the "intellect" than to the gross passions. Such, for instance, are the sins of pride, envy, ambition, covetousness, etc.; and Paul means to say, that before conversion they lived to gratify these propensities, and to accomplish these desires of the soul.
And were by nature - Φύσει Fusei. By birth, or before we were converted By conversion and adoption they became the children of God; before that, they were all the children of wrath. This is, I think, the fair meaning of this important declaration. It does not affirm "when" they began to be such, or that they were such as soon as they were born, or that they were such before they became moral agents, or that they became such in virtue of their connection with Adam - whatever may be the truth on these points; but it affirms that before they were renewed, they were the children of wrath. So far as This text is concerned, this might have been true at their very birth; but it does not directly and certainly prove that. It proves that at no time before their conversion were they the children of God, but that their whole condition before that was one of exposure to wrath; compare Romans 2:14, Romans 2:27; 1 Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 2:15. Some people are born Jews, and some pagan; some free, and some slaves; some white, and some black; some are born to poverty, and some to wealth; some are the children of kings, and some of beggars; but, whatever their rank or condition, they are born exposed to wrath, or in a situation which would render them liable to wrath. But why this is, the apostle does not say. Whether for their own sins or for the sins of another; whether by a corrupted soul, or by imputed guilt; whether they act as moral agents as soon as born, or at a certain period of childhood, Paul does not say.
The children of wrath - Exposed to wrath, or liable to wrath. They did not by nature inherit holiness; they inherited that which would subject; them to wrath. The meaning has been well expressed by Doddridge, who refers it "to the original apostasy and corruption, in consequence of which people do, according to the course of nature, fall early into personal guilt, and so become obnoxious to the divine displeasure." Many modern expositors have supposed that this has no reference to any original tendency of our fallen nature to sin, or to native corruption, but that it refers to the "habit" of sin, or to the fact of their having been the slaves of appetite and passion. I admit that the direct and immediate sense of the passage is that they were, when without the gospel, and before they were renewed, the children of wrath; but still the fair interpretation is, that they were born to that state, and that that condition was the regular result of their native depravity; and I do not know a more strong or positive declaration that can be made to show that people are by nature destitute of holiness, and exposed to perdition.
Even as others - That is, "do not suppose that you stand alone, or that you are the worst of the species. You are indeed, by nature, the children of wrath; but not you alone. All others were the same. You have a common inheritance with them. I do not mean to charge you with being the worst of sinners, or as being alone transgressors. It is the common lot of man - the sad, gloomy inheritance to which we all are born." The Greek is, οἱ λοιποί hoi loipoi "the remainder, or the others," - including all; compare the notes at Romans 5:19. This doctrine that people without the gospel are the children of wrath, Paul had fully defended in Romans 1-3. Perhaps no truth is more frequently stated in the Bible; none is more fearful and awful in its character. What a declaration, that we "are by nature the children of wrath!" Who should not inquire what it means? Who should not make an effort to escape from the wrath to come, and become a child of glory and an heir of life?
4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
But God, who is rich in mercy - On the use of the word "rich" by Paul, see the notes at Ephesians 1:7. It is a beautiful expression. "God is 'rich' in mercy;" overflowing, abundant. Mercy is the riches or the wealth of God. People are often rich in gold, and silver, and diamonds, and they pride themselves in these possessions; but God is "rich in mercy." In that he abounds and he is so rich in it that he is wilting to impart it to others; so rich that he can make all blessed.
For his great love - That is, his great love was the reason why he had compassion upon us. It is not that we had any claim or deserved his favor; but it is, that God had for man original and eternal love, and that love led to the gift of a Saviour, and to the bestowment of salvation.
5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Even when we were dead in sins - notes, Ephesians 2:1; compare Romans 5:8. The construction here is, "God, who is rich in mercy, on account of the great love which he bare unto us, even being dead in sin, hath quickened us," etc. It does not mean that he quickened us when we were dead in sin, but that he loved us then, and made provision for our salvation. It was love to the children of wrath; love to those who had no love to return to him; love to the alienated and the lost. That is true love - the sincerest and the purest benevolence - love, not like that of people, but such only as God bestows. Man loves his friend, his benefactor, his kindred - God loves his foes, and seeks to do them good.
Hath quickened us - Hath made us alive see Ephesians 2:1.
Together with Christ - In connection with him; or in virtue of his being raised up from the grave. The meaning is, that there was such a connection between Christ and those whom the Father hath given to him, that his resurrection from the grave involved their resurrection to spiritual life. It was like raising up the head and the members - the whole body together; compare the notes at Romans 6:5. Everywhere in the New Testament, the close connection of the believer with Christ is affirmed. We are crucified with him. We die with him. We rise with him. We live with him. We reign with him. We are joint heirs with him. We share his sufferings on earth 1 Peter 4:13, and we share his glory with him on his throne; Revelation 3:21.
By grace ye are saved - Margin, "by whose;" see the notes at Romans 3:24. Paul's mind was full of the subject of salvation by grace, and he throws it in here, even in an argument, as a point which he would never have them lose sight of. The subject before him was one eminently adapted to bring this truth to mind, and though, in the train of his arguments, he had no time now to dwell on it, yet he would not suffer any opportunity to pass without referring to it.
6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
And hath raised us up together - That is, we are raised from the death of sin to the life of religion, in connection with the resurrection of Jesus, and in virtue of that. So close is the connection between him and his people, that his resurrection made theirs certain; compare Colossians 2:12; notes, Romans 6:5.
And made us sit together - Together with him. That is, we share his honors. So close is our connection with him, that we shall partake of his glory, and in some measure do now; compare the Matthew 19:28, note, and Romans 8:17, note.
In heavenly places - see the notes at Ephesians 1:3. The meaning is, that he has gone to the heavenly world as our Head and Representative. His entrance there is a pledge that we shall also enter there. Even here we have the anticipation of glory, and are admitted to exalted honors, as if we sat in heavenly places, in virtue of our connection with him.
In Christ Jesus - It is in connection with him that we are thus exalted, and thus filled with joy and peace. The meaning of the whole is," We are united to Christ. We die with him, and live with him. We share his sufferings, and we share his joys. We become dead to the world in virtue of his death; we become alive unto God in virtue of his resurrection. On earth we are exalted to honor, peace, and hope, in virtue of his resurrection; in heaven we shall share his, glory and partake of his triumphs."
7That 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 - In all future times. The sense is, that the riches of divine grace, and the divine benignity, would be shown in the conversion of Christians and their salvation, to all future times. Such was his love to those who were lost, that it would be an everlasting monument of his mercy, a perpetual and unchanging proof that he was good. The sense is, we are raised up with Christ, and are made to partake of his honor and glory in order that others may forever be impressed wish a sense of the divine goodness and mercy to us.
The exceeding riches of his grace - The "abounding, overflowing" riches of grace; compare the notes, Ephesians 1:7. This is Paul's favorite expression - an expression so beautiful and so full of meaning that it will bear often to be repeated. We may learn from this verse:
(1) That one object of the conversion and salvation of sinners, is to furnish a "proof" of the mercy and goodness of God.
(2) another object is, that their conversion may be an "encouragement" to others. The fact that such sinners as the Ephesians had been, were pardoned and saved, affords encouragement also to others to come and lay hold on life. And so of all other sinners who are saved. Their conversion is a standing encouragement to all others to come in like manner; and now the history of the church for more than eighteen hundred years furnishes all the encouragement which we could desire.
(3) the conversion of "great" sinners is a special proof of the divine benignity. So Paul argues in the case before us; and so he often argued from his own case; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 1:16.
(4) heaven, the home of the redeemed, will exhibit the most impressive proof of the goodness of God that the universe furnishes. There will be a countless host who were once polluted and lost; who were dead in sins; who were under the power of Satan, and who have been saved by the riches of the divine grace - a host now happy and pure, and free from sin, sorrow, and death - the living and eternal monuments of the grace of God.
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
For by grace are ye saved - By mere favor. It is not by your Own merit; it is not because you have any claim. This is a favorite doctrine with Paul, as it is with all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity; compare the notes at Romans 1:7; Romans 3:24, note.
Through faith - Grace bestowed through faith, or in connection with believing; see the notes at Romans 1:17; Romans 4:16, note.
And that not of yourselves - That is, salvation does not proceed from yourselves. The word rendered "that" - τοῦτο touto - is in the neuter gender, and the word "faith" - πίστις pistis - is in the feminine. The word "that," therefore, does not refer particularly to faith, as being the gift of God, but to "the salvation by grace" of which he had been speaking. This is the interpretation of the passage which is the most obvious, and which is now generally conceded to be the true one; see Bloomfield. Many critics, however, as Doddridge, Beza, Piscator, and Chrysostom, maintain that the word "that" (τοῦτο touto) refers to "faith" (πίστις pistis); and Doddridge maintains that such a use is common in the New Testament. As a matter of grammar this opinion is certainly doubtful, if not untenable; but as a matter of theology it is a question of very little importance.
Whether this passage proves it or not, it is certainly true that faith is the gift of God. It exists in the mind only when the Holy Spirit produces it there, and is, in common with every other Christian excellence, to be traced to his agency on the heart. This opinion, however, does not militate at all with the doctrine that man himself "believes." It is not God that "believes" for him, for that is impossible. It is his own mind that actually believes, or that exercises faith; see the notes at Romans 4:3. In the same manner "repentance" is to be traced to God. It is one of the fruits of the operation of the Holy Spirit on the soul. But the Holy Spirit does not "repent" for us. It is our "own mind" that repents; our own heart that feels; our own eyes that weep - and without this there can he no true repentance. No one can repent for another; and God neither can nor ought to repent; for us. He has done no wrong, and if repentance is ever exercised, therefore, it must be exercised by our own minds. So of faith. God cannot believe for us. "We" must believe, or "we" shall be damned. Still this does not conflict at all with the opinion, that if we exercise faith, the inclination to do it is to be traced to the agency of God on the heart. I would not contend, therefore, about the grammatical construction of this passage, with respect to the point of the theology contained in it; still it accords better with the obvious grammatical construction, and with the design of the passage to understand the word "that" as referring not to "faith" only, but to "salvation by grace." So Calvin understands it, and so it is understood by Storr, Locke, Clarke, Koppe, Grotius, and others.
It is the gift of God - Salvation by grace is his gift. It is not of merit; it is wholly by favor.
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Not of works - see the notes at Romans 3:20, 27.
10For 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 his "making" - ποίημα poiēma. That is, we are "created or formed" by him, not only in the general sense in which all things are made by him, but in that special sense which is denoted by the new creation; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:17. Whatever of peace, or hope, or purity we have, has been produced by his agency on the soul. There cannot be conceived to be a stronger expression to denote the agency of God in the conversion of people, or the fact that salvation is wholly of grace.
Created in Christ Jesus - On the word "created," see the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Unto good works - With reference to a holy life; or, the design for which we have been created in Christ is, that we should lead a holy life. The primary object was not to bring us to heaven. It was that we should be "holy." Paul held perhaps more firmly than any other man, to the position that people are saved by the mere grace of God, and by a divine agency on the soul; but it is certain that no man ever held more firmly that people must lead holy lives, or they could have no evidence that they were the children of God.
Which God hath before ordained - Margin, "prepared." The word here used means to "prepare beforehand," then to predestinate, or appoint before. The proper meaning of this passage is, "to which οἷς hois good works God has predestinated us, or appointed us beforehand, that we should walk in them." The word used here - προετοιμάζω proetoimazō - occurs in the New Testament nowhere else except in Romans 9:23, where it is rendered "had afore prepared." It involves the idea of a previous determination, or an arrangement beforehand for securing a certain result. The previous preparation here referred to was, the divine intention; and the meaning is, that God had predetermined that we should lead holy lives. It accords, therefore, with the declaration in Ephesians 1:4, that he had chosen his people before the foundation of the world that they should be holy: see the notes at that verse.
That we should walk in them - That we should live holy lives. The word "walk" is often used in the Scriptures to denote the course of life; notes on Romans 6:4.
11Wherefore 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 design of this evidently is, to excite a sense of gratitude in their bosoms for that mercy which had called them from the errors and sins of their former lives, to the privileges of Christians. It is a good thing for Christians to "remember" what they were. No faculty of the mind can be better employed to produce humility, penitence, gratitude, and love, than the memory. It is well to recall the recollection of our former sins; to dwell upon our hardness of heart, our alienation, and our unbelief; and to remember our wanderings and our guilt, until the heart be affected, and we are made to feel. The converted Ephesians had much guilt to recollect and to mourn over in their former life; and so have all who are converted to the Christian faith.
That ye being in time past - Formerly - (ποτε pote.)
Gentiles in the flesh - You were Gentiles "in the flesh," i. e., under the dominion of the flesh, subject to the control of carnal appetites and pleasures.
Who are called Uncircumcision - That is, who are called "the uncircumcised." This was a term similar to that which we use when we speak of "the unbaptized." It meant that they were without the pale of the people of God; that they enjoyed none of the ordinances and privileges of the true religion; and was commonly a term of reproach; compare Judges 14:3; Judges 15:18; 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:26; 1 Samuel 31:4; Ezekiel 31:18.
By that which is called the Circumcision - By those who are circumcised, i. e., by the Jews.
In the flesh made by hands - In contradistinction from the circumcision of the heart; see the notes at Romans 2:28-29. They had externally adopted the rites of the true religion, though it did not follow that they had the circumcision of the heart, or that they were the true children of God.
12That 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:
Ye were without Christ - You were without the knowledge of the Messiah. You had not heard of him; of course you had not embraced him. You were living without any of the hopes and consolations which you now have, from having embraced him. The object of the apostle is to remind them of the deplorable condition in which they were by nature; and nothing would better express it than to say they were "without Christ," or that they had no knowledge of a Saviour. They knew of no atonement for sin. They had no assurance of pardon. They had no well-founded hope of eternal life. They were in a state of darkness and condemnation, from which nothing but a knowledge of Christ could deliver them. All Christians may in like manner be reminded of the fact that, before their conversion, they were "without Christ." Though they had heard of him, and were constantly under the instruction which reminded them of him, yet they were without any true knowledge of him, and without any of the hopes which result from having embraced him. Many were infidels. Many were scoffers. Many were profane, sensual, corrupt. Many rejected Christ with scorn; many, by simple neglect. All were without any true knowledge of him; all were destitute of the peace and hope which result from a saving acquaintance with him. We may add, that there is no more affecting description of the state of man by nature than to say, he is without a Saviour. Sad would be the condition of the world without a Redeemer - sad is the state of that portion of mankind who reject him. Reader, are you without Christ?
Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel - This is the second characteristic of their state before their conversion to Christianity. This means more than that they were not Jews. It means that they were strangers to that "polity" - πολιτεία politeia - or arrangement by which the worship of the true God had been kept up in the world, and of course were strangers to the true religion The arrangements for the public worship of Yahweh were made among the Jews. They had his law, his temple, his sabbaths, and the ordinances of his religion; see the notes at Romans 3:2. To all these the pagans had been strangers, and of course they were deprived of all the privileges which resulted from having the true religion. The word rendered here as "commonwealth" - πολιτεία politeia - means properly citizenship, or the right of citizenship, and then a community, or state. It means here that arrangement or organization by which the worship of the true God was maintained. The word "aliens" - ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι apēllotriōmenoi - here means merely that they were strangers to. It does not denote, of necessity, that they were hostile to it; but that they were ignorant of it, and were, therefore, deprived of the benefits which they might have derived from it, if they had been acquainted with it.
And strangers - This word - ξένος xenos - means properly a guest, or a stranger, who is hospitably entertained; then a foreigner, or one from a distant country; and here means that they did not belong to the community where the covenants of promise were enjoyed; that is, they were strangers to the privileges of the people of God.
The covenants of promise - see the notes at Romans 9:4. The covenants of promise were those various arrangements which God made with his people, by which he promised them future blessings, and especially by which he promised that the Messiah should come. To be in possession of them was regarded as a high honor and privilege; and Paul refers to it here to show that, though the Ephesians had been by nature without these, yet they had now been brought to enjoy all the benefits of them. On the word covenant, see the notes on Galatians 3:15. It may be remarked, that Walton (Polyglott) and Rosenmuller unite the word "promise" here with the word "hope" - "having no hope of the promise." But the more obvious and usual interpretation is that in our common version, meaning that they were not by nature favored with the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., by which there was a promise of future blessings under the Messiah.
Having no hope - The apostle does not mean to affirm that they did not cherish any hope, for this is scarcely true of any man; but that they were without any proper ground of hope. It is true of perhaps nearly all people that they cherish some hope of future happiness. But the ground on which they do this is not well understood by themselves, nor do they in general regard it as a matter worth particular inquiry. Some rely on morality; some on forms of religion; some on the doctrine of universal salvation; all who are impenitent believe that they do not "deserve" eternal death, and expect to be saved by "justice." Such hopes, however, must be unfounded. No hope of life in a future world can be founded on a proper basis which does not rest on some promise of God, or some assurance that he will save us; and these hopes, therefore, which people take up they know not why, are delusive and vain.
And without God in the world - Greek ἄθεοι atheoi - "atheists;" that is, those who had no knowledge of the true God. This is the last specification of their miserable condition before they were converted; and it is an appropriate crowning of the climax. What an expression! To be without God - without God in his own world, and where he is all around us! To have no evidence of his favor, no assurance of his love, no hope of dwelling with him! The meaning, as applied to the pagan Ephesians, was, that they had no knowledge of the true God. This was true of the pagan, and in an important sense also it is true of all impenitent sinners, and was once true of all who are now Christians. They had no God. They did not worship him, or love him, or serve him, or seek his favors, or act with reference to him and his glory. Nothing can be a more appropriate and striking description of a sinner now than to say that he is "without God in the world."
He lives, and feels, and acts, as if there were no God. He neither worships him in secret, nor in his family, nor in public. He acts with no reference to his will. He puts no confidence in his promises, and fears not when he threatens; and were it announced to him that there "is no God," it would produce no change in his plan of life, or in his emotions. The announcement that the emperor of China, or the king of Siam, or the sultan of Constantinople, was dead, would produce some emotion, and might change some of his commercial arrangements; but the announcement that there is no God would interfere with none of his plans, and demand no change of life. And, if so, what is man in this beautiful world without a God? A traveler to eternity without a God! Standing over the grave without a God! An immortal being without a God! A man - fallen, sunk, ruined, with no God to praise, to love, to confide in; with no altar, no sacrifice, no worship, no hope; with no Father in trial, no counselor in perplexity, no support in death! Such is the state of man by nature. Such are the effects of sin.
13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
But now, in Christ Jesus - By the coming and atonement of the Lord Jesus, and by the gospel which he preached.
Ye who sometimes were afar off - Who were "formerly" - ποτὲ pote Tyndale translates it, "a whyle agoo." The phrase "afar off" - μακρὰν makran - means that they were formerly far off from God and his people. The expression is derived from the custom of speaking among the Hebrews. God was supposed to reside in the temple. It was a privilege to be near the temple. Those who were remote from Jerusalem and the temple were regarded as far off from God, and hence as especially irreligious and wicked; see the notes at Isaiah 57:19.
Are made nigh - Are admitted to the favor of God, and permitted to approach him as his worshippers.
By the blood of Christ - The Jews came near to the mercy seat on which the symbol of the divine presence rested (the notes at Romans 3:25), by the blood that was offered in sacrifice; that is, the high priest approached that mercy-seat with blood and sprinkled it before God. Now we are permitted to approach him with the blood of the atonement. The shedding of that blood has prepared the way by which Gentiles as well as Jews may approach God, and it is by that offering that we are led to seek God.
14For 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 - There is evident allusion here to Isaiah 57:19. See the notes at that verse. The "peace" here referred to is that by which a "union" in worship and in feeling has been produced between the Jews and the Gentiles Formerly they were alienated and separate. They had different objects of worship; different religious rites; different views and feelings. The Jews regarded the Gentiles with hatred, and the Gentiles the Jews with scorn. Now, says the apostle, they are at peace. They worship the same God. They have the same Saviour. They depend on the same atonement. They have the same hope. They look forward to the same heaven. They belong to the same redeemed family. Reconciliation has not only taken place with God, but with each other. "The best way to produce peace between alienated minds is to bring them to the same Saviour." That will do more to silence contentions, and to heal alienations, than any or all other means. Bring people around the same cross; fill them with love to the same Redeemer, and give them the same hope of heaven, and you put a period to alienation and strife. The love at Christ is so absorbing, and the dependence in his blood so entire, that they will lay aside these alienations, and cease their contentions. The work of the atonement is thus designed not only to produce peace with God, but peace between alienated and contending minds. The feeling that we are redeemed by the same blood, and that we have the same Saviour, will unite the rich and the poor, the bond and the free, the high and the low, in the ties of brotherhood, and make them feel that they are one. This great work of the atonement is thus designed to produce peace in alienated minds every where, and to diffuse abroad the feeling of universal brotherhood.
Who hath made both one - Both Gentiles and Jews. He has united them in one society.
And hath broken down the middle wall - There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the wall of partition in the temple by which the court of the Gentiles was separated from that of the Jews; see the notes and the plan of the temple, in Matthew 21:12. The idea here is, that that was now broken down, and that the Gentiles had the same access to the temple as the Jews. The sense is, that in virtue of the sacrifice of the Redeemer they were admitted to the same privileges and hopes.
15Having 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 - Having brought to naught, or put an end to it - καταργήσας katargēsas.
In his flesh - By the sacrifice of his body on the cross. It was not by instruction merely; it was not by communicating the knowledge of God; it was not as a teacher; it was not by the mere exertion of power; it was by his flesh - his human nature - and this can mean only that he did it by his sacrifice of himself. It is such language as is appropriate to the doctrine of the atonement - not indeed teaching it directly - but still such as one would use who believed that doctrine, and such as no other one would employ. Who would now say of a moral teacher that he accomplished an important result by "his flesh?" Who would say of a man that was instrumental in reconciling his contending neighbors, that he did it "by his flesh?" Who would say of Dr. Priestley that he established Unitarianism "in his flesh?" No man would have ever used this language who did not believe that Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin.
The enmity - Between the Jew and the Gentile. Tyndale renders this, "the cause of hatred, that is to say, the law of commandments contained in the law written." This is expressive of the true sense. The idea is, that the ceremonial law of the Jews, on which they so much prided themselves, was the cause of the hostility existing between them. That made them different people, and laid the foundation for the alienation which existed between them. They had different laws; different institutions; a different religion. The Jews looked upon themselves as the favorites of heaven, and as in possession of the knowledge of the only way of salvation; the Gentiles regarded their laws with contempt, and looked upon the unique institutions with scorn. When Christ came and abolished by his death their special ceremonial laws, of course the cause of this alienation ceased.
Even the law of commandments - The law of positive commandments. This does not refer to the "moral" law, which was not the cause of the alienation, and which was not abolished by the death of Christ, but to the laws commanding sacrifices, festivals, fasts, etc., which constituted the uniqueness of the Jewish system. These were the occasion of the enmity between the Jews and the Gentiles, and these were abolished by the great sacrifice which the Redeemer made; and of course when that was made, the purpose for which these laws were instituted was accomplished, and they ceased to be of value and to be binding.
Contained in ordinances - In the Mosaic commandments. The word "ordinance" means, decree, edict, law; Luke 2:1; Acts 16:4; Acts 17:7; Colossians 2:14.
For to make in himself - By virtue of his death, or under him as the head.
Of twain one new man - Of the two - Jews and Gentiles - one new spiritual person; that they might be united. The idea is, that as two persons who had been at enmity, might become reconciled and be one in aim and pursuit, so it was in the effect of the work of Christ on the Jews and Gentiles. When they were converted they would be united and harmonious.
16And 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 - This was another of the effects of the work of redemption, and indeed the main effect. It was not merely to make them harmonious, but it was that both, who had been alienated from God, should be reconciled to "him." This was a different effect from that of producing peace between themselves, though in some sense the one grew out of the other. They who are reconciled to God will be at peace with each other. They will feel that they are of the same family, and are all brethren. On the subject of reconciliation, see the notes on 2 Corinthians 5:18.
In one body - One spiritual personage - the church; see the notes at Ephesians 1:23.
By the cross - By the atonement which he made on the cross; see Colossians 1:20; compare the notes at Romans 3:25. It is by the atonement only that men ever become reconciled to God.
Having slain the enmity - Not only the enmity between Jews and Gentiles, but the enmity between the sinner and God. He has by that death removed all the obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God and on the part of man. It is made efficacious in removing the enmity of the sinner against God, and producing peace.
Thereby - Margin, "in himself." The meaning is, in his cross, or by means of his cross.
17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
And came and preached peace - That is, the system of religion which he proclaimed, was adapted to produce peace with God. This he preached personally to those who "were nigh," that is, the Jews; to those who were "afar off " - the Gentiles - he preached it by his apostles. He was the author of the system which proclaimed salvation to both.
The word "peace" here refers to reconciliation with God.
To you which were afar off, ... - see the notes at Ephesians 2:13; compare the notes at Acts 2:39.
18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
For through him - That is, he has secured this result that we have access to God. This he did by his death - reconciling us to God by the doctrines which he taught - acquainting us with God; and by his intercession in heaven - by which our "prayers gain acceptance" with him.
We both have access - Both Jews and Gentiles; see the notes at Romans 5:2. We are permitted to approach God through him, or in his name. The Greek word here - προσαγωγή prosagōgē - relates properly to the introduction to, or audience which we are permitted to have with a prince or other person of high rank. This must be effected through an officer of court to whom the duty is entrusted. "Rosenmuller," Alt und neu Morgenland, in loc.
By one Spirit - By the aid of the same Spirit - the Holy Spirit; see notes, 1 Corinthians 12:4.
Unto the Father - We are permitted to come and address God as our Father; see the Romans 8:15, note 26, note.
19Now 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 - You are reckoned with the people of God. You are entitled to their privileges, and are not to be regarded as outcasts and aliens. The meaning is, that they belonged to the same community - the same family - as the people of God. The word rendered "strangers" - ξένοι xenoi - means "foreigners in state," as opposed to citizens. The word rendered "foreigners" - πάροικοι paroikoi - means "guests in a private family," as opposed to the members of the family. "Rosenmuller." Strangers and such as proposed to reside for a short time in Athens, were permitted to reside in the city, and to pursue their business undisturbed, but they could perform no public duty; they had no voice in the public deliberations, and they had no part in the management of the state. They could only look on as spectators, without mingling in the scenes of state, or interfering in any way in the affairs of the government.
They were bound humbly to submit to all the enactments of the citizens, and observe all the laws and usages of the republic. It was not even allowed them to transact any business in their own name, but they were bound to choose from among the citizens one to whose care they committed themselves as a patron, and whose duty it was to guard them against all injustice and wrong Potter's Greek Ant. i. 55. Proselytes, who united themselves to the Jews, were also called in the Jewish writings, "strangers." All foreigners were regarded as "strangers," and Jews only were supposed to have near access to God. But now, says the apostle, this distinction is taken away, and the believing pagan, as well as the Jew, has the right of citizenship in the New Jerusalem, and one, as well as another, is a member of the family of God. "Burder," Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgertland, in loc. The meaning here is, that they had not come to sojourn merely as guests or foreigners, but were a part of the family itself, and entitled to all the privileges and hopes which others had.
But fellow-citizens with the saints - Belonging to the same community with the people of God.
And of the household of God - Of the same family. Entitled to the same privileges, and regarded by him as his children; see Ephesians 3:15.
20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
And are built upon the foundation - The comparison of the church with a building, is common in the Scriptures: compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 3:9-10. The comparison was probably taken from the temple, and as that was an edifice of great beauty, expense, and sacredness, it was natural to compare the church with it. Besides, the temple was the sacred place where God dwelt on the earth; and as the church was the place where he delighted now to abide, it became natural to speak of his church as the temple, or the residence of God; see the notes at Isaiah 54:11-12. That building, says Paul, was permanently founded, and was rising with great beauty of proportion, and with great majesty and splendor.
Of the apostles - The doctrines which they taught are the basis on which the church rests. It is "possible" that Paul referred here to a splendid edifice, particularly because the Ephesians were distinguished for their skill in architecture, and because the celebrated temple of Diana was among them. An allusion to a building, however, as an illustration of the church occurs several times in his other epistles, and was an allusion which would be everywhere understood.
And prophets - The prophets of the Old Testament, using the word, probably, to denote the Old Testament in general. That is, the doctrines of divine revelation, whether communicated by prophets or apostles, were laid at the foundation of the Christian church. It was not rounded on philosophy, or tradition, or on human laws, or on a venerable antiquity, but on the great truths which God had revealed. Paul does not say that it was founded on "Peter," as the papists do, but on the prophets and apostles in general. If Peter had been the "vicegerent of Christ," and the head of the church, it is incredible that his brother Paul should not have given him some honorable notice in this place. Why did he not allude to so important a fact? Would one who believed it have omitted it? Would a papist now omit it? Learn here:
(1) That no reliance is to be placed on philosophy as a basis of religious doctrine.
(2) that the traditions of people have no authority in the church, and constitute no part of the foundation.
(3) that nothing is to be regarded as a fundamental part of the Christian system, or as binding on the conscience, which cannot be found in the "prophets and apostles;" that is, as it means here, in the Holy Scriptures. No decrees of councils; no ordinances of synods; no "standard" of doctrines; no creed or confession, is to be urged as authority in forming the opinions of people. They may be valuable for some purposes, but not for this; they may be referred to as interesting parts of history, but not to form the faith of Christians; they may be used in the church to express its belief, but not to form it. What is based on the authority of apostles and prophets is true, and always true, and only true; what may be found elsewhere, may be valuable and true, or not, but, at any rate, is not to be used to control the faith of people.
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone - see the note at Isaiah 28:16; Romans 9:33, note. The cornerstone is the most important in the building.
(1) because the edifice rests mainly on the cornerstones. If they are small, and unstable, and settle down, the whole building is insecure; and hence care is taken to place a large stone firmly at each corner of an edifice.
(2) because it occupies a conspicuous and honorable place. If documents or valuable articles are deposited at the foundation of a building it is within the cornerstone. The Lord Jesus is called the "cornerstone," because the whole edifice rests on him, or he occupies a place relatively as important as the cornerstone of an edifice. Were it not for him, the edifice could not be sustained for a moment. Neither prophets nor apostles alone could sustain it; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 3:11; compare 1 Peter 2:6.
21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom - That is, "by" whom, or "upon" whom. It was in connection with him, or by being reared on him as a foundation.
All the building - The whole church of Christ.
Fitly framed together - The word used here means "to joint together," as a carpenter does the frame-work of a building. The materials are accurately and carefully united by mortises and tenons. so that the building shall be firm. Different materials may be used, and different kinds of timber may be employed, but one part shall be worked into another, so as to constitute a durable and beautiful edifice. So in the church. The different materials of the Jews and Gentiles; the people of various nations, though heretofore separated and discordant, become now united, and form an harmonious society. They believe the same doctrines; worship the same God; practice the same holiness; and look forward to the same heaven.
Groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord - see the 1 Corinthians 3:17 note; 2 Corinthians 6:16 note.
22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
In whom - In Christ, or on Christ, as the solid and precious foundation.
Ye also are builded together - You are built into that, or constitute a part of it. You are not merely "added" to it, but you constitute a part of the building.
For an habitation of God - For the indwelling, or the dwelling-place, of God. Formerly he dwelt in the temple. Now he dwells in the church, and in the hearts of his people; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 6:16.
Remarks On Ephesians 2
1. We were by nature dead in sin; Ephesians 2:1. We had no spiritual life. We were insensible to the calls of God, to the beauty of religion, to the claims of the Creator. We were like corpses in the tomb in reference to the frivolous and busy and happy world around them. There we should have remained, had not the grace of God given us life, just as the dead will remain in their graves forever, unless God shall raise them up. How humble should we be at the remembrance of this fact! how grateful that God bas not left us to sleep that sleep of death forever!
2. Parents should feel deep solicitude for their children; Ephesians 2:3. They, in common with all others, are "children of wrath." They have a nature prone to evil; and that nature will develope itself in evil for ever, unless it is changed - just as the young thornbush will be a thorn-bush, and will put forth thorns and not roses; and the Bohon Upas will be a Bohon Upas, and not an olive or an orange; and as the lion will be a lion, and the panther a panther, and not a lamb, a kid, or a gazelle. They will act out their nature, unless they are changed: and they will not be changed, but by the grace of God. I do not mean that their nature is in every sense like that of the lion or the asp; but I mean that they will be as certainly "wicked," if unrenewed, as the lion will be ferocious, and the asp poisonous. And if so, what deep anxiety should parents feel for the salvation of their children! How solicitous should they be that, by the grace of God. the evil propensities of their nature may be eradicated, and that they become the adopted children of God!
3. The salvation of sinners involves all the exercise of power that is put forth in the resurrection of the dead; Ephesians 2:5. It is not a work to be performed by man; it is not a work of angelic might. None can impart spiritual life to the soul but he who gave it life at first. On that great Source of life we are dependent for our resurrection from spiritual death; and to God we must look for the grace by which we are to live. It is true that though we are by nature "dead in sins," we are not in all respects like the dead. Let not this doctrine be abused to make us secure in sin, or to prevent effort. The dead in the grave are dead in all respects. We by nature are dead only in sin. We are active in other things; and indeed the powers of man are not less active than they would be if he were holy. But it is a tremendous activity for evil, and for evil only. The dead in their graves hear nothing, see nothing, and feel nothing.
Sinners hear, and see, and feel; but they hear not God, and they see not his glory, anymore than if they were dead. To the dead in the grave, no command could with propriety be addressed; on them, no entreaty could be urged to rise to life. But the sinner may be commanded and entreated; for he has power, though it is misdirected; and what is needful is, that he should put forth his power in a proper manner. While, therefore, we admit, with deep humiliation, that we, our children, and friends, are by nature dead in sin, let us not abuse this doctrine as though we could be required to do nothing. It is with us willful death. It is death because we do not choose to live. It is a voluntary closing our eyes, and stopping our ears, as if we were dead; and it is a voluntary remaining in this state, when we have all the requisite power to put forth the energies of life. Let a sinner be as active in the service of God as he is in the service of the devil and the world, and he would be an eminent Christian. Indeed, all that is required is, that the misdirected and abused energy of this world should be employed in the service of the Creator. Then all would be well.
(See the supplementary notes, Romans 8:7; Galatians 5:17, note. Whenever it is said the sinner has power, the kind of power should be defined. Certainly he has not moral power. This, indeed, the author allows, but for want of distinct definition of what he understands by "power," both here and elsewhere, the reader is apt to misapprehend him.)
4. Let us remember our former course of life; Ephesians 2:11-12. Nothing is more profitable for a Christian than to sit down and reflect on his former life - on his childhood, with its numerous follies and vanities; on his youth, with its errors, and passions, and sins: and on the ingratitude and faults of riper years. Had God left us in that state, what would be now our condition? Had he cut us off, where had been our abode? Should he now treat us as we deserve, what would be our doom? When the Christian is in danger of becoming proud and self-confident, let him remember what he was. Let him take some period of his life - some year, some month, or even some one day - and think it all over, and he will find enough to humble him. These are the uses which should be made of the past:
(1) It should make us humble. If a man had before his mind a vivid sense of all the past in his own life, he would never be lifted up with pride.
(2) it should make us grateful. God cut off the companions of my childhood - why did he spare me? He cut down many of the associates of my youth in their sins - why did he preserve me? He has suffered many to live on in their sins, and they are in the "broad road" - why am I not with them, treading the path to death and hell?
(3) the recollection of the past should lead us to devote ourselves to God. Professing Christian, "remember" how much of thy life is gone to waste. "Remember" thy days of folly and vanity. "Remember" the injury thou hast done by an evil example. "Remember" how many have been corrupted by thy conversation; perverted by thy opinions; led into sin by thy example; perhaps ruined in body and soul forever by the errors and follies of thy past life. And then remember how much thou dost owe to God, and how solemnly thou art bound to endeavor to repair the evils of thy life, and to save "at least as many as" thou hast ruined.
5. Sinners are by nature without any well-founded hope of salvation; Ephesians 2:12, They are living without Christ, having no belief in him, and no hope of salvation through him. They are "aliens" from all the privileges of the friends of God. They have no "hope." They have no wellfounded expectation of happiness beyond the grave. They have a dim and shadowy expectation that "possibly" they may be happy; but it is founded on no evidence of the divine favor, and no promise of God. "They could not tell on what it is founded, if they were asked;" and what is such a hope worth? These false and delusive hopes do not sustain the soul in trial; they flee away in death. And what a description is this! In a world like this, to be without hope! Subject to trial; exposed to death; and yet destitute of any well-founded prospect of happiness beyond the tomb! They are "without God" also. They worship no God: they confide in none.
They have no altar in their families; no place of secret prayer. They form their plans with no reference to the will of God; they desire not to please him. There are multitudes who are living just as if there were no God. Their plans, their lives, their conversation, would not be different if they had the assurance that there was no God. All that they have ever asked of God, or that they would now ask of him, is, "that he would let them alone." There are multitudes whose plans would be in no respect different, if it were announced to them that there was no God in heaven. The only effect might be to produce a more hearty merriment, and a deeper plunge into sin. What a world! How strange that in God's own world it should thus be! How sad the view of a world of atheists - a race that is endeavoring to feel that the universe is without a Father and a God! How wicked the plans which can be accomplished only by laboring to forget that there is a God; and how melancholy that state of the soul in which happiness can be found only in proportion as it believes that the universe is without a Creator, and moves on without the superintending care of a God!
6. The gospel produces peace; Ephesians 2:14-17.
(1) it produces peace in the heart of the individual, reconciling him to God.
(2) it produces peace and harmony between different ranks and classes and complexions of people, causing them to love each other, and removing their alienations and antipathies. The best way of producing friendship between nations and tribes of people; between those of different complexions, pursuits, and laws, is, to preach to them the gospel. The best way to produce harmony between the oppressor and the oppressed, is to preach to both of them the gospel of peace, and make them feel that they have a common Saviour.
(3) it is suited to produce peace among the nations. Let it spread, and wars will cease; right and justice will universally prevail, and harmony and concord will spread over the world; see the notes at Isaiah 2:4.
7. Let us rejoice in the privileges which we now have as Christians. We have access to the Father; Ephesians 2:18. None are so poor, so ignorant, so down-trodden that they may not come to God. In all times of affliction, poverty, and oppression, we may approach the father of mercies. Chains may bind the body, but no chain can fetter the soul in its contact with God. We may be thrown into a dungeon, but communion with God may be maintained there. We may be cast out and despised by people, but we may come at once unto God, and he will not cast us away. Further. We are not now strangers and foreigners. We belong to the family of God. We are fellow-citizens with the saints; Ephesians 2:19. We are participants of the hope of the redeemed, and we share their honors and their joys. It is right that true Christians should rejoice, and their joy is of such a character that no man can take it from them.
8. Let us make our appeal on all doctrines and duties to the Bible - to the prophets and the apostles; Ephesians 2:20. On them and their doctrine we can build. On them the church is reared. It is not on the opinion of philosophers and lawgivers; not on creeds, symbols, traditions, and the decisions of councils; it is on the authority of the inspired book of God. The church is in its most healthy state when it appeals for its doctrines most directly to the Bible. Individual Christians grow most in grace when they appeal most to this "book of books." The church is in great danger of error when it goes off from this pure "standard" and makes its appeal to other standards - to creeds and symbols of doctrine. "The Bible is the religion of Protestants;" and the church will be kept pure from error, and will advance in holiness, just as this is made the great principle which shall always govern and control it. If a doctrine is not found in the "apostles and prophets" - in some part of the Bible, it is not to be imposed on the conscience. It may, or may not be true; it may, or may not be suited to edify a people; but it is not to be an article of faith, or imposed on the consciences of men.
9. Let us evince always special regard for the Lord Jesus; Ephesians 2:20. He is the precious cornerstone on which the whole spiritual temple is reared. On him the church rests. How important, then, that the church should have correct views of the Redeemer! How important that the true doctrine respecting his divine nature; his atonement; his incarnation; his resurrection, should be maintained. It is not a matter of indifference whether he be God or man; whether he died as an atoning sacrifice or as a martyr; whether he be the equal of God, or whether he be an archangel. Everything depends on the view which is held of that Redeemer - and as people entertain different opinions about him, they go off into different systems as wide from each other as the poles: Everything in the welfare of the church, and in the individual peace of its members, depends on proper views of the Lord Jesus.
10. The church is designed as the place of the special residence of the Holy Spirit on earth; Ephesians 2:21-22. It is the beautiful temple where be dwells; the edifice which is reared for his abode. How truly should that church be; how pure should be each Christian to be an appropriate habitation for such a guest! Holy should be the heart where that Spirit dwells. With what anxious care should we cherish the presence of such a guest; with what solicitude should we guard our conduct that we may not grieve him away! How anxious we are so to live that we may not grieve away our friends from our dwellings! Should an illustrious guest become an inmate in our abode, how anxious should we be to do all that we can to please him, and to retain him with us! flow much more anxious should we be to secure the indwelling of the eternal Spirit! How desirous that be should make our hearts and the church his constant abode!