A Study Of The Book Of Ephesians:
A verse by verse examination of God's eternal purpose in and through Jesus Christ.
by: Allan Turner
Salvation By Grace Through Faith—2:1 – 10
1. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. With the starting of this new chapter, there is a transition in thought. Paul, who has been praising God and thanking Him for the faith of the Ephesians, and praying for their continued enlightenment, now begins to remind them of what they once were and what they now are in Christ. In the past, these Ephesians, although they knew the mysteries and secrets involved in their paganism, were spiritually dead in their disobedience and sins. They have now been “quickened” or made alive (cf. Colossians 2:13).
2. In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. These Ephesians, both Jews and Gentiles, had once been among the “living dead” (I Timothy 5:6), who are ruled by satan, “the prince of the power of the air.” In other words, when we “walk” or conduct our lives in a worldly fashion (i.e., with no consideration of what God has to say) we are allowing ourselves to be controlled by the devil. God works in His sons “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Satan, too, works in his children (cf. John 8:42-44).
3. Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Paul makes it clear that the matter of disobedience and sin is a universal problem. None have been immune. We were all in the same condition. We were all part of that group that we now understand is made up of the “living dead.” At one time, “all” Christians, just like everyone else, walked according to the lusts and desires of the “flesh” (which is used here by Paul in its negative sense) and our debased minds. According to Galatians 5:19-21, some of these are: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like....” In this condition, our natures were corrupted by disobedience and sin and we were doomed to suffer God's wrath.
4. But, God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. The picture of the preceding verses is one of ruin and judgment; nevertheless, the but here is quite emphatic, and totally reverses this very bleak picture. God hates sin and disobedience but is abundant in His mercy toward the sinner. And if mercy is His attitude towards us, and it most certainly is, then surely it is His great love for us that serves as His motive for all He does for us in Christ. And, as we have already learned, this great love began with God in eternity and is the reason “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (1:4), “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (1:5).
5. Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. The process of ruin has now been reversed. We are no longer the “living dead.” Instead, we have been “born again” (John 3:7), “raised from the dead...[to] walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), or “made alive...together with Christ,” “having forgiven [us] all [our] trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). (By grace you have been saved). God acted toward us (the world) in mercy motivated by love when we were in spiritually dead. Consequently, this salvation we now enjoy in Christ is the result of God's grace or unmerited favor toward us.
6. And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Just as the omnipotence of God raised up Christ alive, it also raises us up spiritually to “a newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Christ, of course, was not just raised up alive, but He was also exalted “at His [the Father's] right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). In 1:3 and 1:20, “the heavenly places” clearly refers to the heaven of God's glory, the dwelling place of God Himself. Here, in this verse, “the heavenly places in Christ” refer to the church, the kingdom of God on earth. Speaking of this spiritual kingdom when He stood before Pilate, Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (John 18:36). Christians have been raised up to reign together with Christ in His church, the kingdom of God on earth. Quite appropriately Christians are referred to elsewhere as “kings and priests” or, literally, “a kingdom of priests” (Revelation 1:6). In 6:12, Paul uses “the heavenly places” to refer to the supermundane or spiritual domain of demonic forces who array themselves against us. This expression then has at least three different meanings and is best determined by the context in which it is used.
7. That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. The “ages to come” is eternity. In eternity God is going to make such a spectacle of His grace and kindness toward the redeemed in Christ that all the heavenly hosts and saints will glorify Him.
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. If they were Jews, these Ephesians had not been saved by their perfect keeping of the Law of Moses, and if they were Gentiles, they were not saved because of what they had learned through their mystery religions. They were saved by grace (this is God's part) through faith (this is their part). The “gift” is salvation, not faith. If God, because of His love, kindness, mercy, and grace, had not initiated His eternal scheme of redemption, there is no way man could be saved. Faith, of course, comes by hearing and believing God's Word (Romans 10:17). Therefore, salvation, a gift of God, is something to be seized rather than achieved. Furthermore, and one must never lose sight of this fact, faith, truth faith, the kind of faith under discussion in this verse, is more than just believing (James 2:19).
9. Not of works, lest anyone should boast. Again, their salvation, which was a gift from God, did not come by the works of the Law, nor by any works of man's invention or device. Salvation was not bestowed by God as a result of their efforts, therefore there was nothing for them to boast about. It is absolutely unconscionable for anyone to use what Paul is here writing as an excuse for teaching that man cannot and must not do anything in order to be saved, because, if he did, it would not be totally of God's grace. There are the works of men in which, before God, no man can glory, and there are the works “of God” which all men are obligated to do by faith (John 6:29). In other words, our faith obligates us to obey (cf. James 2:14-26).
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The church of Christ is the workmanship of God, and we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” These works “of God” were determined “beforehand” in the mind of God, and it is for the doing of these works that we were created. As God, through His omnipotence, created Adam, so He creates us spiritually in Christ. Again, “in Christ” tells where this creation takes place. It is in our connection with Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). Consequently, we are told to not just be hearers, but doers of the “work” also (James 1:25).
Brought Near By The Blood Of Christ—2:11 – 13
11. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—. “You” and “we” have been used freely up to this point. As has already been said, some of the Ephesians were Jewish, but most were Gentiles. Thus far, Paul has not used these pronouns to distinguish between Jew and Gentile, but here he makes a distinction. He now uses “you” to specifically refer to the Gentile Christians. Nevertheless, there are two groups in the church at Ephesus: the Uncircumcision (the Gentiles) and the Circumcision (the Jews). In their previous condition, neither of these groups were right with God. Notice that the Jews had been circumcised in the flesh not in their hearts.
12. That at that time you 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. The former condition of these Gentiles was totally reprehensible. They knew nothing about Christ. They had never had the advantage of being citizens of the commonwealth of Israel and were completely ignorant of the promises and covenants God had made with Abraham (Genesis 12:2,3). They were without God and had absolutely no hope of ever getting out of this world alive. The five-fold negative description of this verse has a cumulative effect. The situation grows worse and worse with the last clause, “and without God in the world,” as the climax.
13. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. But now, in Christ, these who had been so far from being what they ought to be, were now, by their obedience to the gospel, made near by the blood of Christ. This was always God's intent. Saving the Gentiles was not an afterthought of God. When Jesus came into this world to seek and save that which was lost, He said: “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:15,16).
Christ Our Peace—2:14 – 18
14. For He Himself is our peace. Jesus Christ, as a result of shedding His blood, is not just the peacemaker, but is “our peace,” because in His person, as God-man, the reconciliation took place. Through Him there is peace between God and man and Jew and Gentile. This double meaning runs through this verse and the one following. This latter peace, the one he mentions in this verse, is actually made possible by the first. Who has made both one. Both Jew and Gentile are one in their connection with Christ. If they truly belong to Christ, they are unified. This is the only way Jew and Gentile will ever be one. And has broken down the middle wall of division between us. The wall of division between these two groups was the Law of Moses, with its ordinances and observances (cf. Acts 10:28), which kept the Jews separate from the Gentiles, much like the actual wall of division in the Jerusalem Temple beyond which a Gentile was not permitted to go.
15. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances. Through His death, Jesus Christ abolished the Law (Colossians 2:14). In other words, we are no longer under a system of perfect lawkeeping for justification, but under grace (Romans 6:14). So as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace. The long feud between the human family is healed in Christ. There is now one fold and one shepherd. As Paul said in the Galatian letter: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28,29).
16. And that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross. This is the reconciliation that Paul wrote about in II Corinthians 5:19, “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” The word of reconciliation is the gospel, which, when obeyed, reconciles man to God first, and then, as Paul has pointed out in the previous verses, to other men, regardless of their race, sex, or social status (Galatians 3:28). This reconciliation is in the “one body” of 1:22,23 and Colossians 1:18, which could not have existed without the work of the cross. Thereby putting to death the enmity. How? “By His grace through the redemption that is in Christ, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26). Through the cross of Christ, sin has been punished. Therefore, God is just. Through the cross of Christ, the penalty for our sins has been paid vicariously. Therefore, God can be the justifier of those who exercise faith in His Son.
17. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. This preaching was not the preaching that Christ had done personally, but was the preaching done by the apostles and other preachers of the gospel (cf. Hebrews 1:2). Both the Gentile and the Jew heard this preaching.
18. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. In order to see the king, one had to be introduced by one close to him. Paul uses this symbolism to demonstrate that it is only through this “one Mediator,...the Man Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 2:5), that any of us, Jew or Gentile, have access to the Father. However, this is not done without the work of the “one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13).
Christ Our Cornerstone—2:19 – 22
19. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Being formed into one sanctified household (the house of God, family of God, or church of Christ) along with the Jews, the Gentiles were strangers and foreigners no longer.
20. Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The household of God is a “spiritual house” constructed out of “living stones” (I Peter 2:5). The laying of this foundation was accomplished by the preaching of the gospel (cf. 3:5). Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. The two parts of this spiritual house are held together by Jesus Christ Himself, the chief cornerstone.
21. In whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Jesus Christ does not just hold it together, but He also causes it to grow into a sacred temple (I Corinthians 3:16) by bringing new members (converts) into the church.
22. In whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. In their connection with Christ, both the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Ephesus were part of the universal body of Christ. In sum-total with all the other churches, they formed the invisible body of Christ, the church which He built (Matthew 16:18) and purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). “A habitation of God in the Spirit” is equivalent to “a holy temple in the Lord” in verse 21. God in the Spirit (i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) dwells in the church, His sacred temple (I Corinthians 3:16), a spiritual house not built with hands (Acts 7:48 and 17:24).