World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. But what does Paul wish for the Ephesians? The spirit of wisdom, and the eyes of their understanding being enlightened. And did they not possess these? Yes; but at the same time they needed increase, that, being endowed with a larger measure of the Spirit, and being more and more enlightened, they might more clearly and fully hold their present views. The knowledge of the godly is never so pure, but that some dimness or obscurity hangs over their spiritual vision. But let us examine the words in detail.
The God of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God became man in such a manner, that God was his God as well as ours.
“I ascend,” says he, “to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)
And the reason why he is our God, is, that he is the God of Christ, whose members we are. Let us remember, however, that this relates to his human nature; so that his subjection takes nothing away from his eternal godhead.
The Father of glory. This title springs from the former; for God’s glory, as a Father, consists in subjecting his Son to our condition, that, through him, he might be our God. The Father of glory is a well-known Hebrew idiom for The glorious Father. There is a mode of pointing and reading this passage, which I do not disapprove, and which connects the two clauses in this manner: That God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give to you.
The Spirit of wisdom and revelation is here put, by a figure of speech, (metonymy,) for the grace which the Lord bestows upon us by his own Spirit. But let it be observed, that the gifts of the Spirit are not the gifts of nature. Till the Lord opens them, the eyes of our heart are blind. Till the Spirit has become our instructor, all that we know is folly and ignorance. Till the Spirit of God has made it known to us by a secret revelation, the knowledge of our Divine calling exceeds the capacity of our own minds.
In the knowledge of him. This might also be read, In the knowledge of himself. Both renderings agree well with the context, for he that knows the Son knows also the Father; but I prefer the former as more natively suggested by the Greek pronoun, ἐν ἐπιγνώσει αὐτοῦ
18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened. The eyes of your heart is the rendering of the Vulgate, which is supported by some Greek manuscripts. The difference is immaterial, for the Hebrews frequently employ it to denote the rational powers of the soul, though more strictly, being the seat of the affections, it means the will or desire; but I have preferred the ordinary translation.
And what the riches. A comparison, suggested by its excellence, reminds us how unfit we are to receive this elevated knowledge; for the power of God is no small matter. This great power, he tells us, had been exerted, and in a very extraordinary manner, towards the Ephesians, who were thus laid under constant obligations to follow his calling. By thus extolling the grace of God toward themselves, he intended to check every tendency to despise or dislike the duties of the Christian life. But the splendid encomiums which he pronounces on faith convey to us also this instruction, that it is so admirable a work and gift of God, that no language can do justice to its excellence. Paul is not in the habit of throwing out hyperboles without discrimination; but when he comes to treat of a matter which lies so far beyond this world as faith does, he raises our minds to the admiration of heavenly power.
19. According to the working. Some consider this clause as referring solely to the word believe, which comes immediately before it; but I rather view it as an additional statement, tending to heighten the greatness of the power, as a demonstration, or, if you prefer it, an instance and evidence of the efficacy of the power. The repetition of the word power, (δυνάμεως) has the appearance of being superfluous; but in the former case it is restricted to one class, — in the next, it has a general application. Paul, we find, never thinks that he can say enough in his descriptions of the Christian calling. And certainly the power of God is wonderfully displayed, when we are brought from death to life, and when, from being the children of hell, we become the children of God and heirs of eternal life.
Foolish men imagine that this language is absurdly hyperbolical; but godly persons, who are engaged in daily struggles with inward corruption, have no difficulty in perceiving that not a word is here used beyond what is perfectly just. As the importance of the subject cannot be too strongly expressed, so our unbelief and ingratitude led Paul to employ this glowing language. We never form adequate conceptions of the treasure revealed to us in the gospel; or, if we do, we cannot persuade ourselves that it is possible for us to do so, because we perceive nothing in us that corresponds to it, but everything the reverse. Paul’s object, therefore, was not only to impress the Ephesians with a deep sense of the value of Divine grace, but also to give them exalted views of the glory of Christ’s kingdom. That they might not be cast down by a view of their own unworthiness, he exhorts them to consider the power of God; as if he had said, that their regeneration was no ordinary work of God, but was an astonishing exhibition of his power.
According to the efficacy of the power of his strength. There are three words here, on which we may make a passing remark. We may view strength as the root, — power as the tree, — and efficacy as the fruit, or the stretching out of the Divine arm which terminates in action.
20. Which he wrought in Christ. The Greek verb is ἐνέργησεν, from which ἐνέργεια is derived. It might run thus, According to the efficacy which he effected. But the translation which I have given conveys the same meaning, and is less harsh.
With the greatest propriety does he enjoin us to contemplate this power in Christ; for in us it is hitherto concealed. “My strength,” says he, “is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9.) In what do we excel the children of the world but in this, that our condition appears to be somewhat worse than theirs? Though sin does not reign, it continues to dwell in us, and death is still strong. Our blessedness, which lies in hope, is not perceived by the world. The power of the Spirit is a thing unknown to flesh and blood. A thousand distresses, to which we are daily liable, render us more despised than other men.
Christ alone, therefore, is the mirror in which we can contemplate that which the weakness of the cross hinders from being clearly seen in ourselves. When our minds rise to a confident anticipation of righteousness, salvation, and glory, let us learn to turn them to Christ. We still lie under the power of death; but he, raised from the dead by heavenly power, has the dominion of life. We labor under the bondage of sin, and, surrounded by endless vexations, are engaged in a hard warfare, (1 Timothy 1:18;) but he, sitting at the right hand of the Father, exercises the highest government in heaven and earth, and triumphs gloriously over the enemies whom he has subdued and vanquished. We lie here mean and despised; but to him has been “given a name” (Philippians 2:9,) which angels and men regard with reverence, and devils and wicked men with dread. We are pressed down here by the scantiness of all our comforts: but he has been appointed by the Father to be the sole dispenser of all blessings. For these reasons, we shall find our advantage in directing our views to Christ, that in him, as in a mirror, we may see the glorious treasures of Divine grace, and the unmeasurable greatness of that power, which has not yet been manifested in ourselves.
And set him at his own right hand. This passage shews plainly, if any one does, what is meant by the right hand of God. It does not mean any particular place, but the power which the Father has bestowed on Christ, that he may administer in his name the government of heaven and earth. It is idle, therefore, to inquire why Stephen saw him standing, (Acts 7:55,) while Paul describes him as sitting at God’s right hand. The expression does not refer to any bodily posture, but denotes the highest royal power with which Christ has been invested. This is intimated by what immediately follows, far above all principality and power: for the whole of this description is added for the purpose of explaining what is meant by the right hand.
God the Father is said to have raised Christ to “his right hand,” because he has made him to share in his government, because by him he exerts all his power; the metaphor being borrowed from earthly princes, who confer the honor of sitting along with themselves on those whom they have clothed with the highest authority. As the right hand of God fills heaven and earth, it follows that the kingdom and power of Christ are equally extensive. It is in vain, therefore, to attempt to prove that, because Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, he dwells in heaven alone. His human nature, it is true, resides in heaven, and not in earth; but that argument is foreign to the purpose. The expression which follows, in heavenly places, does not at all imply that the right hand of God is confined to heaven, but directs us to contemplate the heavenly glory amidst which our Lord Jesus dwells, the blessed immortality which he enjoys, and the dominion over angels to which he has been exalted.
21. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion. All these names, there can be no doubt, are applied to angels, who are so denominated, because, by means of them, God exercises his power, and might, and dominion. He permits them to share, as far as is competent to creatures, what belongs to himself, and even gives to them his own name; for we find that they are called אלהים, (elohim,) gods. From the diversity of names we conclude that there are various orders of angels; but to attempt to settle these with exactness, to fix their number, or determine their ranks, would not merely discover foolish curiosity, but would be rash, wicked, and dangerous.
But why did he not simply call them Angels? I answer, it was to convey exalted views of the glory of Christ that Paul employed those lofty titles. As if he had said, “There is nothing so elevated or excellent, by whatever name it may be named, that is not subject to the majesty of Christ.” There was an ancient superstition, prevalent both among Jews and Gentiles, falsely attributing to angels many things, in order to draw away their minds from God himself, and from the true Mediator. Paul constantly labors to prevent this imaginary lustre of angels from dazzling the eyes of men, or obscuring the brightness of Christ; and yet his utmost exertions could not prevent “the wiles of the devil”(Ephesians 6:11) from succeeding in this matter. Thus we see how the world, through a superstitious dread of angels, departed from Christ. It was indeed the unavoidable consequence of the false opinions entertained respecting angels, that the pure knowledge of Christ disappeared.
Above every name that is named. Name is here taken for largeness, or excellence; and to be named means to enjoy celebrity and praise. The age that is to come is expressly mentioned, to point out that the exalted rank of Christ is not temporal, but eternal; and that it is not limited to this world, but shines illustriously in the kingdom of God. For this reason, too, Isaiah calls him, (Isaiah 9:6,) The Father of the future age. In short, the glories of men and angels are made to hold an inferior place, that the glory of Christ, unequalled and unapproached, may shine above them all.
22. And gave him to be the head. He was made the head of the Church, on the condition that he should have the administration of all things. The apostle shews that it was not a mere honorary title, but was accompanied by the entire command and government of the universe. The metaphor of a head denotes the highest authority. I am unwilling to dispute about a name, but we are driven to it by the base conduct of those who flatter the Romish idol. Since Christ alone is called “the head,” all others, whether angels or men, must rank as members; so that he who holds the highest place among his fellows is still one of the members of the same body. And yet they are not ashamed to make an open avowal that the Church will be ἀκέφαλον, without a head, if it has not another head on earth besides Christ. So small is the respect which they pay to Christ, that, if he obtain undivided that honor which his Father has bestowed upon him, the Church is supposed to be disfigured. This is the basest sacrilege. But let us listen to the Apostle, who declares that the Church is His body, and, consequently, that those who refuse to submit to Him are unworthy of its communion; for on Him alone the unity of the Church depends.
23. The fullness of him that filleth all in all. This is the highest honor of the Church, that, until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation is it for us to learn, that, not until we are along with him, does he possess all his parts, or wish to be regarded as complete! Hence, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, [1Co 12:12-31] when the apostle discusses largely the metaphor of a human body, he includes under the single name of Christ the whole Church.
That filleth all in all. This is added to guard against the supposition that any real defect would exist in Christ, if he were separated from us. His wish to be filled, and, in some respects, made perfect in us, arises from no want or necessity; for all that is good in ourselves, or in any of the creatures, is the gift of his hand; and his goodness appears the more remarkably in raising us out of nothing, that he, in like manner, may dwell and live in us. There is no impropriety in limiting the word all to its application to this passage; for, though all things are regulated by the will and power of Christ, yet the subject of which Paul particularly speaks is the spiritual government of the Church. There is nothing, indeed, to hinder us from viewing it as referring to the universal government of the world; but to limit it to the case in hand is the more probable interpretation.