Major themes in the letter to the Ephesians
The letter to the Ephesians counts 6 chapters. The first three chapters are focused on theological issues related to the election of the Church. Chapters 5 and 6 bring up issues related to practical sides of the life in calling. Chapter 4 brings these theological and practical matters together:
- Ephesians 1 - election and predestination of the Church; the value of redemption through Christ's blood imparted to the elect as wisdom; at the end of times everything is to be gathered in Christ; the earnest and the seal of the spirit; the spirit of wisdom and revelation; the Church is the Body of Christ; the resurrection of the Church is on the pattern of the resurrection of Christ; Jesus Christ put above all power and authority;
- Ephesians 2 - the resurrection of the Church from dead deeds to the newness of life through the faith that is God's gift to the elect, independent from deeds; Jesus brought down the wall of hostility separating the Jews and pagans, i.e. the Mosaic Law, and so out of these two groups one Church of Christ could emerge, which is God's temple built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus Christ as its cornerstone;
- Ephesians 3 - Paul is the apostle for pagans, addressing them with a secret hidden from the ages that pagans have their share in the Body of Christ; Paul prays that God may strengthen the inward man in the believers so that, being well-grounded in the love of truth, we could learn its width, length, height and depth;
- Ephesians 4 - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; the need for spiritual unity; the teachers of the Church appointed for building maturity in members of Christ's Body to its fullness in order that we are no longer children carried away by false teaching; Christ is the Head of the Body, which grows by love; the need to shed the old man and bring on the new one through renewal of thinking; the deeds of the body that need to be remeoved; do not sadden the holy spirit;
- Ephesians 5 - follow God as children in love on the pattern of Christ; the deeds of the body that need to be remeoved; the children of light; strive to understand what the will of God is; the relationship of man and wife;
- Ephesians 6 - the relations between children and parents, slaves and their masters; God's armour.
"Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, (5) having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved" (YLT)
Commentary: the apostle Paul presents the addressees of his letter as those who have been chosen by God and are destined to become "holy and unblemished before him". The purpose of the evangelical calling is to develop the characters of the elect in the image of the character of Jesus Christ. The elect who repent before God through faith in Jesus Christ receive the gift of God's love of truth, which is the source of a new birth in them - the beginning of a new mind (and consequently a new character) developed by work with the Word of God. That is why Paul writes about "adoption of sons through Jesus Christ' (verse 5) and about election made "in love" (verse 4). Believers who faithfully perform their sacrifices will become holy and blameless because their characters will be developed in both the avoidance of sin and giving forth of the spiritual fruit. The aspirations of new creatures, thanks to the spirit given to them, are connected with spiritual matters - learning about the Divine order of the world. That is why we read in verse 3 that God 'blessed us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.'
God elects individuals who will be given the gift of being born of the spirit. Predestination, of which the Apostle also writes in verse 5, describes the same process, but from a different point of view. The Greek proorizo, which we translate as predestine, refers to prior determination of boundaries (pro - before, horizo - horizon). So if election indicates who will receive the spirit of truth, predestination determines the horizon within which this development can take place. In other words, God sets a goal to be realized by the elect - a goal that at the same time is the limit of their individual possibilities. The ultimate goal of Divine predestination is the glory of the Divine nature as co-rulers with Jesus Christ, and therefore Paul writes about "the praise of the glory of His grace" (verse 6). Information about election made "before the foundation of the world" means that no man has any influence on whether he belongs to the elect. No one can do it with deeds, nor can one deprive himself of the grace of election.
"...in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (8) in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence" (YLT)
Commentary: by saying that the grace of redemption is given to believers in the form of wisdom and prudence, the apostle Paul indirectly shows the meaning of our Lord's sacrifice. According to Rom. 5:18-19, the price for Adam's disobedience was maintaining total obedience by Lord Jesus. Because crucifiction was his last experience, the Bible speaks of redemption through the blood (verse 7). The price of redemption thus seen is absorbed by believers in the form of wisdom because the model of complete obedience in Jesus Christ was also presented to his followers, whose task is to work out the same kind of attitude that the Lord presented during his earthly ministry.
"...having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself, (10) in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth -- in him; (11) in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will, (12) for our being to the praise of His glory, [even] those who did first hope in the Christ" (YLT)
Commentary: the apostle declares in verse 10 that God's purpose is to gather everything in Christ, i.e. in the "fulness of the times", when the great divine plan of salvation comes to an end, each creation will be a reflection of the image of perfect obedience to God shown in our Lord Jesus. Already today, in the present Gospel age, the grace of salvation in Christ was presented to those who were elected and predestined for this purpose by God's sovereign decision (verse 9,11). The aim of the elect is the glory of the Divine nature as kings and priests with Jesus Christ with the aim of reforming the resurrected human race with him - that is why in verse 12 Paul writes that we are to exist "to the praise of His glory". The condition, however, is 'hope in Christ', i.e. the elect must first show faith in Christ and confirm it with repentance. After these preliminary conditions are fulfilled, the elect are gifted with the spirit of the new birth so that as God's newborn children they may strive to achieve their glorious reward. Verses 9-12 essentially repeat in a slightly different form the message of verses 3-6.
- expanded commentary on Rom. 8:19-22
- judgement of mankind
- Body of Christ
- election and predestination (Eph. 1:3-6)
"...in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth - the good news of your salvation - in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, (14) which is an earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory" (YLT)
Commentary: the purpose of the Gospel calling is to gather those who will be kings and priests with Jesus Christ in order to reform the resurrected human race in the future kingdom. God accomplishes this gathering by choosing some (individually) and predestinating them for this purpose. The elect who, according to verse 13, hear the word of the Gospel and believe (i.e. show their conviction and repent) receive the measure of God's spirit which is the cause of the new birth in them - the beginning of the mind shaped in the image of Jesus Christ. Only those born of the spirit can hope to receive the reward in glory, which is why Paul says at the end of verse 13 about the 'Spirit of the promise'. The concept of an earnest includes the idea that the love of truth begins the path towards maturity of understanding. The maturity of thought, in turn, is to be a tool of character reform, hence the concept of sealing - the spirit transfers the image of truth to character just like a stamp imprinting its image in art material.
Further words of the apostle point to what the elect develop. In verse 14 Paul writes that the spirit is our earnest literally "to the redemption", so in order to redeem. The sacrifice for Adam's disobedience was Jesus' obedience and the testimony of the truth which he made in this way. The application of this redemption price in accordance with verse 8 takes place through our acquisition of the 'wisdom and prudence' that our Lord has manifested through his ministry. The meaning of redemption is therefore the reform of character to the image of the character of Jesus Christ, through the truth. Here, the spiritual earnest is necessary. It is the spirit of love of truth which arouses in the elect the desire to learn God's teachings and enables them to understand. In other words, the spirit of the love of truth enables those elect to use the truth in order to identify character with the image of Lord's character - therefore the earnest is for redemption. God's property which is to be redeemed are the elect endowed with the spirit of the new birth, just as typically God's special possession was the chosen nation, Israel.
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"[I] do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of the glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the recognition of him, (18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (YLT)
Commentary: in verses 13 and 14 the apostle Paul wrote about the earnest of the spirit to be developed by the called so that the hope of glory that was presented to them would be fulfilled. In verses 16-18 we read how this earnest should be used. If its essence is to give to the elect the spirit of the love of truth, its product should be development in the knowledge of the Word of God and Paul is praying for it (verse 16). It should be emphasized in particular that the spirit in question is not the spirit of the new birth because it works especially in the area of emotions and motivations of the people called to take up the service of the Lord. If the new birth so conceived can be described as a symbolic heart, Paul prays in verse 18 literally for the "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened" - enlightened and thus seeing what the truth is "for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (verse 18). The concept of the spirit in verses 16-18 is therefore different from the concept of the earnest from verse 14. There it is the spirit of the love of truth that is spoken about; the spirit which is for the elect the source of the new birth. Here, the apostle writes about the effect of the conduct of the called in accordance with the spirit given to them, which should be the maturity of understanding of the Word of God.
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"...and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us who are believing, according to the working of the power of His might, (20) which He wrought in the Christ, having raised him out of the dead, and did set [him] at His right hand in the heavenly [places]" (YLT)
Commentary: in previous verses, the apostle Paul wrote about the gift of the spirit for the elect in a dual sense: 1) as an earnest in the form of the divine sacrificial love agape, which leads believers to the new birth (of the character) and 2) as maturity of understanding of the Word of God, the achievement of which is the goal of the spirit-born new creatures. And here comes the surprising statement from verse 20, where we read that with the same power that was just mentioned, God acted also in the case of Jesus Christ when He raised him from the dead and glorified. The event to which the apostle refers was the baptism in the Jordan, when our Lord also received the spirit of the new birth and thus became the spiritual son of God, as also evidenced by the voice from heaven: "my beloved son" (beloved, i.e. endowed with the sacrificial love agape). The difference between him and the elect is, however, that our Lord received the fullness of the spirit. He did not have to develop understanding of the Word of God because he received everything in this single moment: the opening heavens symbolize the full enlightenment he then experienced (Mt. 3:13-17).
The mention of raising from the dead from verse 20 does not apply to the resurrection on the third day after Calvary, but to the same experience of baptism. In the spiritual sense, those who receive the gift of the love of truth experience death of their human will because from now on the will of the Father in heaven is their own. This element of death is also accompanied by the element of resurrection, which is birth of the spirit: through the action of the spirit of truth on the ruins of the old character, a new character is built, which is based on the work with the Holy Bible and the service to which the new creation is called, in the form of evangelization, teaching and prophecy. Since the object of interest for the born of the spirit is metaphysical truth, the Bible speaks of the presence of the new creation in the heavenly heights. This is what verse 20 says of Jesus, but also the same is said of the elect in Eph. 2:6.
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"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (OGIB)
Commentary: verse 21 is a continuation of the thought of verses 19-20 and concerns the baptism to which our Lord submitted himself in the Jordan. At that time he was born of the spirit and then also received the fullness of royal power, "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion." Because name in the Bible means character, the mention that our Lord was "above every name" means that in terms of the development of his qualities, Jesus is unmatched among all creation. The same thought was given by a voice from heaven which was heard during baptism: "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." He was the only one whose character guaranteed blameless fulfillment of man's redemption.[beginning of page]
"And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, (23) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (OGIB)
Commentary: the concept of the Church (Greek ekklesia - from among the called) includes the elect who listen to the Gospel and repent in the name of Jesus Christ. In this way they become the recipients of the spirit of sacrifice for the truth - the same which the Lord had (and which the unelect believers do not receive). By faithfully carrying out their sacrifices, they grow in the knowledge of God's Word and develop character in the image of Jesus Christ. That is why Paul literally says in verse 23 that the Church is "the fulness of him that filleth all in all". In verses 13-18 it was mentioned that the spirit of Christ is the spirit of sacrifice and the spirit of knowledge. Our Lord received the fullness of his spirit at baptism, while the elect receive an earnest, which is then developed by their faithful service. In this sense, believers are 'filled' with the fullness of spirit that the Lord possessed because their purpose is to develop character in the image of the character of the Lord Jesus - we are to become his faithful copies.
The concept of the Body of Christ, which the apostle Paul identifies with the Church, describes the position of new creatures from a slightly different point of view. The purpose of the calling is to identify the character of the elect with the character of Jesus Christ. Character, on the other hand, consists of two areas, namely awareness (knowledge, analysis, decision, reasoning) and the subconscious (instinct, habits, patterns of behavior). Because the subconscious is the domain of automatic reactions of our body, hence the concept of the body relates to this sphere of character. Also the concept of the Body of Christ will mean shaping the reactions in accordance with the principles of God. The spirit of sacrifice for the truth and the spirit of understanding operate in the area of consciousness, but the greater goal is to transform the subconscious by consciously acquiring and applying the truth. In doing so, we become members of the Body of Christ because our character is identified with the Lord's character in both the conscious and the subconscious.
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"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, (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, (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. (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (NKJV)
Commentary: in verse 1 Paul writes that we are "dead in trespasses and sins" because everybody who sins is under the death sentence. In further verses the apostle discusses the change that God brings about in his elect by 'making us alive together with Christ' (verse 5). We are brought to life by God's sacrificial love agape, which is God's gift for the elect (verse 4), and which is the means of the new birth of man's character due to contact with the Scriptures. The new creation - the new mind - is developed through the truth, but not the truth of the humanities or physics, but the metaphysical truth - God's truth. Moreover, our motivation to deal with it also comes from God (the agape love), therefore Paul states in verse 6 that we "sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus". The notion of resurrection that also appears in verse 6, refers to the birth of the spirit from a slightly different perspective, namely if the new character is to be originated in man, the previous character has to be terminated - it has to die. So in the spiritual sense we not only experience the new birth, but also the resurrection. The salvation of which we read in verse 5 especially describes the fact the new personality of God's children is developed by the heavenly agent - His love and His truth - and as such is no longer subject to the death sentence. Still, because not everybody today receives this gift (but only the elect), the apostle says that "by grace you have been saved".
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"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (NKJV)
Commentary: verses 8-10 continue the thought presented by Paul especially in verses 4-7. The salvation of which we read in verse 8 describes birth of the spirit - birth of the new character. Our new character is born "through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God". Faith has in itself the element of conviction and motivation for action. In this sense, the faith that is lead by God's love agape, is God's gift and it is "by grace" because only the few elect receive it. Verse 9 underlines that it is "not of works", i.e. nobody can earn it. God chooses those whom He will give the spirit of the new birth on the basis of repentance, in a way completely independent from the action of man and on the basis of criteria that have not been presented in the Bible. Still, in verse 10 the apostle does state that works have their place in the process, i.e. we have not been chosen because of the works that we have taken, but in order for us to take them. These are "good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them", which is to say, God expects the recipients of His consecrating faith that they will live according to it and develop character on the image of their Lord Jesus Christ.[beginning of page]
"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 — (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. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (NKJV)
Commentary: until our Lord completed his sacrifice, the division into the blessed Israel and the rest of the pagan world was clear. The change consists in bringing the non-Jews to what the apostle Paul calls in verse 12 "the commonwealth of Israel" and "the covenants of promise" (in the original we find 'covenant' in the singular). The covenant of promise is the covenant made by God with Abraham, which covered not only the promise of the earthly seed (which was Israel according to the flesh), but also the spiritual seed - the spiritual Israel - whose members were to have the same faith Abraham displayed. In the other sense a Jew is one who is cirsumcised not in the flesh, but in the heart by the spirit of obedience to God. The inclusion of pagans therefore means that those who believe in God and repent in the name of Jesus Christ are truly Abraham's offspring according to the spirit - they are heirs of his faith, and as such they are included within the covenant of promise.
Why the inclusion of pagans takes place through the blood of Jesus Christ: because his sacrifice was not complete until the last moments on the cross. Its essence was to testify to the truth in full obedience to God. Our Lord faced his last trial while hanging on the cross ("My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"). Abraham's faith consisted in full obedience to God. Because our Lord secured complete testimony of what this obedience is with his own blood, Abraham's offspring in terms of faith accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour and strive to follow him in their lives. Thus God's promise to Abraham that he would be a father of nations is fulfilled: his DNA formed his offspring according to the flesh; his faith formed the ones who accept the Gospel of Christ.
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"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, (15) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (16) and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity" (NKJV)
Commentary: the Mosaic Law gave hope of regaining life on the basis of complete obedience of the regulations contained therein, and only as long as these regulations were observed. In this sense the Law was a symbolic wall which separated Israel from other nations: in order to stick to the Law, the chosen nation could not follow the traditions of other nations; it had to remain in the state of enmity towards all practices alien to God's laws, as well as the people who committed them.
The change of this state of things was brought by our Lord and his sacrifice by showing a different method of salvation: by the sacrifice of the body made in the service of the truth. Because Christ's sacrifice ended on the cross, the apostle Paul explicitly refers to this element in verse 16. The redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ is effective for those who follow his example in sacrificing their own bodies on the altar of the Gospel and thus shape their characters on the pattern of Christ's character in the knowledge of the truth. This is a different method of justification than the one introduced by the Mosaic Law. That is why Paul states that Jesus brought down the wall separating Jews and pagans, and created "one new man from the two" nations because in Christ both Jews and pagans have the same method of salvation: following the example of the Lord in his service for the truth.
Speaking of this "new man" in verse 15, the apostle refers to the notion of Christ as consisting of the Head (Jesus Christ) and the Body (all believers). Membership in the Body belongs to everyone who manifests the spirit of obedience to God modelled on Jesus Christ. The unity of Christ (Head and Body) results from one spirit and the fact that all followers of the Lord aim to be as he is in character. He is the model which has to be duplicated in every living being. Therefore, even though there are many of us believing, the image of God in Christ is only one - and so there is one Christ and one Body, of which we are members if only we believe in him.
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"And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. (18) For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (19) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (NKJV)
Commentary: verses 17-19 continue the earlier thought. In verse 17 Paul speaks of those who were afar off and those who were near, thus referring to the status of both pagan nations (who did not know God, so they were afar off) and Israel, who was near as God's chosen nation. Presently both sides have the same access to God "by one spirit" - the spirit of Christlike obedience and love for the truth. The elect - from Jews and non-Jews alike - due to the spirit of the agape love experience the new birth in their characters, and as the new creation are counted among children of God and members of His household. Because the new birth means the renewal of man out of God's power - His sacrificial love for the truth - the new creation thus generated is free from accusaction from the point of view of justice, and so it can enjoy peace with God (verse 17).
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"...having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, (22) in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (NKJV)
Commentary: it is worth considering one particular element in this fragment: the apostle Paul tells the spirit-born that they are built (the passive voice in the original) to be "a dwelling place of God in the Spirit". Under the Old Covenant the Tabernacle was God's dwelling place represented by the Ark of the Covenant. Despite the fact that the whole Israel - the people, levites and priests - stand for the spirit-begotten, access to the Tabernacle belonged only to the priests - the new creation representing the level of development proper for Christian maturity. If Paul says that we are built to be God's dwelling place, he addresses the words principally to the antitypical people and levites, i.e. those of God's people who have not developed full maturity in the knowledge and application of the truth, and secondly also, to the priests who need to carry on with their sacred service in the Holy Place. Under the Old Covenant the Lord's glory occupied the physical Tabernacle, and so under the New Covenant God's spirit abides in the new creation - the elect who repent in the name of Christ and thus receive the earnest of the spirit as the love for the Word of God. Those from among the spirit-begotten believers who carry out their consecration receive gradually the spirit of wisdom and revelation, owing to which they grow to maturity on the pattern of Jesus Christ and then they fully become God's dwelling place - not in the earnest, but in the fullness of the truth (see Eph. 1:13-18). The foundation of this growth are the teachings of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. Just as the cornerstone brings together two walls, so our Lord brings together in one spirit and one spiritual temple the two nations which were mentioned in verses 17-19.
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"...by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, (5) which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: (6) that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel" (NKJV)
Commentary: verses 4-6 refer to the subject matter of Eph. 2:11-22, namely invitation of pagans to participate in the Body of Christ. This element of the Divine Plan was not known in previous ages. Also our Lord did not preach to anyone outside Israel, and only after his resurrection did he instruct his followers to bring the Gospel to other nations. Therefore, Paul writes that this element of the Divine Plan was revealed to the apostles and prophets by the spirit - the Divine power of understanding through which Peter, and all the others later on could appreciate the fact that God started to invite pagans to His Word. This fact translates for believers - both Jews and non-Jews - to their participation in the Body of Christ through having the same spirit of obedience to God and service for the Gospel that our Lord possessed. For the most faithful members of the Body it will mean becoming co-kings with Jesus Christ in his kingdom sitting with him on 24 thrones.
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"...and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; (10) to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, (11) according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (NKJV)
Commentary: God's purpose which is mentioned in verse 11 concerns gathering the Body of Christ from among Jews and pagans. The purpose is accomplished in Christ because Lord Jesus was the one to secure the price of redemption by his faithful service for the truth in full obedience to the very end. According to verse 9, this purpose not widely understood. Neither was it known to "to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places", i.e. angels, and even those highest in rank, were not aware of the means God would use to redeem man. The plan was devised by God himself - the phrase "through Jesus Christ" is an addition which does not occur universally in Biblical text and is contrary to the statement made by our Lord that "Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner" (Jn. 5:19,30). The wisdom of salvation God reveals through His Church (verse 10) because the first to fully use the worth of Christ's sacrifice are the new creatures in the present Gospel Age. The apostle Paul received the grace (verses 8-9) of revealing to pagans not "the fellowship of the mystery", but dispensation (epoch, gr. oikonomia), i.e. Paul's task was to announce that the time of Church gathering had started.
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"...in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him" (NKJV)
Commentary: the above words refer to the last verses of the second chapter, in which Paul compares the Church to the antitypical temple, built of living stones to be God's dwelling place through His spirit. Even though all Israel - God's chosen people - represented the spirit-begotten under the New Covenant, not all Jews had access to the temple. Levites were authorised to serve by the temple, but only consecrated priests had access to the Holy Place. There they fed on the showbread by the light of the candle and burnt incense for a sweet savour unto the Lord.
The apostle Paul apparently has this typical ordinance in mind in Eph. 3:12. First of all, Paul states that we have "boldness and access with confidence", so we are free to enter. Just as not the whole nation could enter the typical Holy, but only the few priests, similarly not all spirit-begotten enter the antitypical Holy. For the elect are begotten of the spirit by receiving God's spirit of love for the truth. Thus we become the new creation - the new mind which is to develop in further growth in understanding and application of the Scriptures. Not all recipients of the spirit use it to foster their development. Those who neglect it do not develop their new creation and thus remain outside the antitypical Holy.
As to the condition of entering, Paul writes that it happens by his faith (not: faith in Him). The faith of our Lord consisted in both the spirit of self-sacrifice for the truth, but also at baptism he received the spirit of understanding (which was shown by the opening heavens). Those two elements taken together are pictured by the Holy Place. The believers who would like to enter need to possess not only the spirit of self-sacrifice (the earnest), but also the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:13-18). So they need to manifest the kind of faith our Lord manifested; they can enter by his faith.
- people, levites and priests of the Gospel Age
- earnest of the spirit (Eph. 1:13,14)
- baptism in the spirit
"...that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — (19) to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (NKJV)
Commentary: verses 16-19 deal with the issue of character change. The term 'character' describes specific, recurrent manner of behaviour. Human behaviour up to the level of 95 per cent is dictated by the subconscious - automatic reactions to specific stimuli programmed in our bodies. The remaining 5 per cent is the sphere of consciousness, knowledge and reasoning. For the character of sinful man to become compliant with the rules of God, the 5 per cent of our consciousness needs to reprogramme the remaining 95 per cent. Verse 16 addresses the issue. 'The inner man' refers to the subconscious 95 per cent. The apostle Paul prays that the elect might be "strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man", so the change in character results from the activity of the divine spirit.
Verse 17 describes the 'might' in more detail. First of all, it happens "through faith", so the basic condition is the reaction of man who needs to accept Jesus Christ, i.e. believe in him and repent. The elect who do it receive as God's gift His spirit of love agape, which is the love of truth leading its holders to search for understanding and service for God's Word. The operation of agape in the elect results in understanding - first of basic truths (foundation), and later on also of what verse 18 desribes as "the width and length and depth and height" - all dimensions of the Gospel.
Everything that verses 17 and 18 speak about relates to consciousness (the mentioned 5 per cent). The agape love operates here and also here our understanding of the Scripture develops through consistent spiritual work. However, as I pointed out at the beginning of the commentary, the goal is for the 5 per cent of consciousness to reprogramme the 95 per cent of subconsciousness. And it is the subject matter of verse 19 - the content developed by the love of truth needs to be reflected in the subconscious; our character ('inner man') needs to change so that we can be "filled with all the fullness of God". The fullness of God is the structure of the truth with which we are filled when we understand it, put it to practice and change the subconsious traits of character accordingly. Thus 'the love of Christ passes knowledge' because it is not only about the knowledge as such/ reasoning, but also about remodelling the deep strata of the human psyche.
- new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)
- new creation and transformation of the inward man
- seal of the spirit (2 Cor. 1:21,22)
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, (2) with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, (3) endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (NKJV)
Commentary: Paul's concern expressed in verses 1-6 is "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". In further verses, especially 8 and 11, the apostle writes of different gifts related primarily with the knowledge of the Word and teaching. The aim of these gifts is to build the Body of Christ, but their consequence among the immature can also be arguments and bitter emotions. Therefore in the fragment under scrutiny Paul underlines what unites us in faith, and that is our goal: so that due to the received spirit of love for the truth we can transform characters according to the pattern shown in Lord Jesus in hope of attaining the prize of our calling: the Divine nature (verses 1 and 4). Because we all, no matter what particulars our induvidual faiths hold, believe in one God and his Son as our Saviour, striving to follow him closely and subjecting ourselves to baptism symbolizing our repentance and conversion (verses 5 and 6). Having that in mind, we maintain peace in the community of believers and put up with each other in love, i.e. remembering that we all have received the same spirit of (learning of) the truth and shaping our lives accordingly. Even if we differ on specific points of doctrine, the main goal remains unchanged.[beginning of page]
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. (8) Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." (9) (Now this, "He ascended" — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things)" (NKJV)
Commentary: Jesus first "descended into the lower parts of the earth" as a man 'to take captives', so that throught faith in him the elect could receive the spirit of self-sacrifice for the Gospel, and so become the 'captives' of God and Lord Jesus, working not for themselves, but for God. The other element was Jesus' ascension. It happened in order that everything could be filled with the spirit of knowledge and obedience to God on the pattern of our Saviour. This process of spiritual development to the fullness of Christ was to be faciitated by 'gifts' - primarily the gift of spiritual baptism, but also other supernatural skills that were to support the work of evangelisation and teaching done by the 'captives'.
The apostle Paul creates a direct link here between the reception of gifts by the elect and the fact of Jesus' resurrection and ascension. This interdependence can be seen in at least two ways. Firstly, the resurrected Jesus endowed with the glory of the Divine nature can support his Church on a regular basis, not just as a hitorical figure (by his example). Secondly, the aim of our Lord's sacrifice was to show man the path to life. If he had completed his mission but lost his life, everybody would understand that his sacrifice failed; that following him leads to the loss of the temporary life without the hope of gaining the future life. Such salvation would be a disappoinment. Meanwhile, Christ's resurrection and ascension is a guarantee for believers not only that following him leads to life, but also that the prize for the winners of the calling is special, awaiting them in the spirtual glory.
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"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (13) till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (14) that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — (16) from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (NKJV)
Commentary: the term 'body' refers to the patterns of behaviour, which are beyond the direct control of consciousness, and which are encoded in our nervous system - our body. Justification, i.e. bringing back justice in character, takes place through building the Body of Christ in us (verse 12) - through developing such ways of behaviour which will be subconscious, but at the same time compatible with the rules of justice. Shaping the subconscious in accordance with Christ requires the work of consciousness - first, the will of change, and second, the knowledge of the truth, i.e. the rules according to which we are to be shaped. God's tool for the completion of this objective is the love agape - the love for the truth which motivates the elect to learn the Word of God and enables them to do that. For this reason in verse 15 Paul connects our growth in Christ with "the truth in love" - because our faithful service for the truth is the condition for the maturity of understanding and further on, to the development of character - mechanisms of behaviour rooted in the subconscious.
The knowledge of the truth is the indispensable condition for its reflection in character. Such cognition is not only understanding, but it also encompasses the truth being reflected in the subconscious patterns of behaviour. That is why in verse 13 Paul uses the Greek epignosis - as oppossed to gnosis, whose meaning is restricted only to the operation of the mind. In the same verse 13 one can read about "the perfect man" - shaped on both the conscious and the subconscious level. Thus we attain to "the fullness of Christ" - the Body of Christ edified in our characters. It should come as no surprise, then, why Paul puts so much stress on the knowledge of the truth - understanding of how our reality functions and what rules govern it. What is also important, this understanding cannot be shaky, susceptible to "every wind of doctrine" (verse 14). Character development is a process, and a long one, therefore it requires a solid base in the form of mature understanding.
Because the problem of knowledge is so crucial in the development of "the perfect man", God not only endows His Church with the love for the truth, but he also gives special gifts to some of its members, related with the broadly-understood teaching. This thread was more vividly expressed in verses 7-10. The captives of Christ are those who receive his agape love; gifts are imparted in various measure to different members of Christ. Thus "He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets (with an insight to the depths of the Biblical teaching), some evangelists (with the spirit especially prone to speaking to the non-believers), and some pastors and teachers (teaching the basics of faith)". These various gifts given in varoius measure to different Church members are to facilitate the development of all members of the believing community - so that "the whole body [could be] joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share" (verse 16).
Related themes:beginning of page]
"This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, (18) having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; (19) who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (NKJV)
Commentary: in connection with the unbelievers, the apostle Paul shows two factors indispensible for the formation of the new man: "because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart". The element of understanding was especially stressed by the apostle in the preceding verses. The structure of the truth will not find a reflection in the subconscious - it will not become a part of character - if it does not find a way to our consciousness and become a subject of undestanding. However, undestanding does not equal action. An affective factor is required here that will allow the knowledge to go deeper. A student who participates in classes with reluctance or indifference will learn less than a student with a positive attitude.
In the context of faith, this emotion which opens the gate for understanding originates from repentance and conversion, which link certain attitudes and opinions with a negative feeling on the one hand, and correlate positively spiritual content on the other. That is why Jesus started his preaching with an admonition to repent. Teaching about Christ one who has not repented - whose emotions are not positive towards God - is of no use. Even if the person learns the theory of the Biblical doctrine (by treating it as another discipline of science), the lack of emotion related to repentance and conversion will stop the knowledge on the conscious level and will have no bearing on the character - will not make us the Body of Christ.[beginning of page]
"But you have not so learned Christ, (21) if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: (22) that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (NKJV)
Commentary: in verses 20-24 the apostle Paul clearly refers to the fragment Eph. 3:16-19. The 'inner man' mentioned there is the character - ways of behaviour applicable in repeatable situations and predefined in our nervous system. In the fragment under scrutiny Paul writes about the old man and the new man, meaning that the character developed without faith in God must be 'put off' so that a new character can be 'put on', compliant with God's rules of justice. How this change is effected - by being 'renewed in the spirit of your mind'. The spirit spoken of here is the spirit of the agape love, which the Bible also refers to as the love of the truth. The ones endowed with it are led to understaning of the truth, and so to 'renewal of the mind'. Change of mind will lead in turn to the change in action: first in the aspects under direct control of consciousness, and later on gradually to the change of character. So to the change which is the ultimate goal of believers in Christ.
Related themes:beginning of page]
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (NKJV)
Commentary: God's spirit is the spirit of love for the truth and obedience to God. In the elect it develops the knowledge of the Word and the ability to use God's principles in practice. Thus we develop what the Bible calls the new creation, i.e. conscious learning of the truth and behaviour consistent with it. There is also, however, a subconscious element of our personality, which we call character, and which contains preprogrammed mechanisms of behaviour activated daily in repeatable situations quite like a computer sets off an algorithm - on a stimulus-reaction basis, without carrying out a detailed analysis every time there comes the stimulus. Still, the human brain does have a feature called neuroplasticity, which means that those predefined ways of behaviour can be modified. This is the task of the new creation, which by learning and practicing of the truth shapes the character anew quite like a seal pressed againts plastic material leaves a particular shape. The apostle Paul draws on this similarity when he writes about the spirit with which we are sealed. This process has been described by Paul in verses 20-24.
How do we grieve the spirit - if we were sealed in the past simple tense as Paul uses it in verse 30, it means that a far-reaching reform of character has already taken place. If such a mature Christian starts behaving in a way decribed in verses 25-29 and 31, it will elicit a strong reaction of the new creation - or the spirit with which we were sealed - in the form of actually sadness and remorse. This reaction cannot be disregarded because a prolonged neglect of the voice of the new creation (conscience) diminishes one's sensitivity even to the point of complete numbness. At this point repentance becomes impossible. The apostle stresses this element in contextual verses by using imperative verbs in the continuous form. For example verse 29: Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth. In the original we read: 'Let no corrupt word be proceeding', which puts stress on continuity of such behaviour. Things like that may happen, but they cannot happen as a rule because we risk killing the spirit with which we were sealed "for the day of redemption" - for the spirit is the sign of our future reward in Christ's Kingdom as long as it remains in us.
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"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word" (NKJV)
Commentary: our membership in the Church is based on the condition of having Christ's spirit of consecrating love, through which we follow in Lord's footsteps, sacrificing our bodies for the Gospel. Repentance is necessary to do it - our cleansing of sins motivated by obedience to the Word of the truth. Thus the old man (character) developed without faith is 'buried in death' just as our bodies are immersed in water during baptism. Because repentance is a reaction to the Gospel, our cleansing takes place "by the word"; because it is symbolized by water baptism, Paul speaks of "the washing of water".
Related themes:beginning of page]
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: (3) 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.' (4) And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (NKJV)
Commentary: first three verses are addressed to children. Obedience to parents is the first commandment with promise because the first thing one can do in life is learning from parents - first through contact and observation, and later on through verbal communication as well. The efect will be such as described in verse 3, which is a natural consequence of the fact that parents have years of valuable experience and knowledge of the world which their children can draw on before they start learning on their own by trials and errors. On the other hand, fathers' special responsibility is to 'bring children up in training' by shaping character and "admonition of the Lord" by imparting knowledge and facilitating the ability to think logically. Neglect of such actions of fathers towards children will result in 'provoking them to wrath' - children need boundaries because they give them the sense of safety. The lack of such boundaries makes a young man to look for them actively, demonstrating in the process more and more rebelious, aggressive or even destructive behaviour.[beginning of page]