PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|From Death to Life||By Grace Through Faith||Christ's Benefits||From Death to Life||Salvation in Christ, a Free Gift|
|One in Christ||Brought Near by His Blood||One in Christ||Reconciliation of the Jews and the Pagans with Others and with God|
|Christ Our Peace||2:13-18|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO 2:1-22
A. The Gnostic and Jewish emphasis on human works-oriented salvation is depreciated by Paul's emphasis on
1. God's election in Eph. 1:3-14
2. God's wisdom, knowledge and revelation, Eph. 1:15-23
3. God's initiating grace in Eph. 2:1-10
4. the mystery of God's redemptive plan hidden from the ages (i.e., Jew and Gentile now are one in Christ) in Eph. 2:11-3:13
Paul emphasizes the four things in which humans have no part! Salvation is all of God (cf. Eph. 1:3-14; 2:4-7), but individuals must personally respond (cf. Eph. 2:8-9) and live in light of the New Covenant (Eph. 2:10).
B. There are three enemies of fallen humanity delineated in Eph. 2:2-3 (cf. James 4:1,4,7):
1. the fallen world system, Eph. 2:2
2. the angelic adversary, Satan, Eph. 2:2
3. mankind's fallen nature (Adamic nature), Eph. 2:3
Verses 1-3 show the hopelessness and helplessness of fallen mankind apart from and in rebellion to God (cf. Rom. 1:18-2:16).
C. As Eph. 2:1-3 describe the pitiable state of humanity, Eph. 2:4-6 contrast the riches of God's love and mercy for fallen mankind. Human sin is bad, but God's love and mercy are greater (cf. Rom. 5:20)! What God did for Christ (cf. Eph. 1:20), Christ has now done for believers (cf. Eph. 2:5-6).
D. There is real tension in the New Testament between the free grace of God and human effort. This tension can be expressed in paradoxical pairs:
1. indicative (a statement) and imperative (a command);
2. grace/faith objective (the content of the gospel) and subjective (one's experience of the gospel);
3. won the race (in Christ) and now run the race (for Christ).
This tension is clearly seen in Eph. 2:8-9, which emphasizes grace, while Eph. 2:10 emphasizes good works. It is not an either/or but a both/and theological proposition. However, grace always comes first and is the foundation of a Christlike lifestyle. Verses 8-10 are a classical summary of the paradox of the Christian gospel-free, but it costs everything! Faith and works (cf. James 2:14-26)!
E. A new topic is introduced in Eph. 2:11-3:13. It is the mystery, hidden from the beginning, that God desires the redemption of all mankind, Jew (cf. Ezek. 18:23,32) and Gentile (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9), through personal faith in the substitutionary atonement of the Messiah. This universal offer of salvation was predicted in Gen. 3:15 and 12:3. This radically free forgiveness (cf. Rom. 5:12-21) shocked the Jews and all religious elitists (Gnostic false teachers, Judaizers) and all modern "works-righteousness" proponents.
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: EPHESIANS 2:1-10
1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
2:1 Either Eph. 2:1-7 or Eph. 2:1-10 form one sentence in Greek, with the main verb in Eph. 2:5. It is one sustained argument. Paul's presentation includes
1. the hopelessness, helplessness, and spiritual lostness of all mankind, Eph. 2:1-3
2. the unmerited grace of God, Eph. 2:4-7
3. the necessary human response, faith and life, Eph. 2:8-10
▣ "you" In Colossians and Ephesians this plural pronoun always refers to believing Gentiles (cf. Eph. 1:13; 2:12).
▣ "were dead" This is a present active participle meaning "being dead." This refers to spiritual death (cf. Eph. 2:5; Rom. 5:12-21; Col. 2:13). The Bible speaks of three stages of death:
1. spiritual death (cf. Gen. 2:17; Genesis 3; Isa. 59:2; Rom. 7:10-11; James 1:15)
2. physical death (cf. Gen. 2:16-17; 3:4-5; 5)
3. eternal death, called "the second death" (cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8)
▣ "trespasses" This Greek term (paraptōma) means "falling to one side" (cf. Eph. 1:7). All Greek words for "sins" are related to the Hebrew concept of deviation from the standard of God's righteousness. The terms "right," "just," and their derivatives in Hebrew are from a construction metaphor for a measuring reed. (see Special Topic at Eph. 4:24). God is the standard. All humans deviate from that standard (cf. Ps. 14:1-3; 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; 53:1-4; 140:3; Isa. 53:6; 59:7-8; Rom. 3:9-23; 1 Pet. 2:25).
▣ "sins" This Greek term (hamartia) means "missing the mark" (cf. Eph. 4:26). The two terms for sin in verse 1 are used as synonyms to illustrate mankind's fallen, estranged condition (cf. Rom. 3:9,19,23; 11:32; Gal. 3:22).
2:2 "in which you formerly walked" "Walk" is a biblical metaphor for lifestyle (cf. Eph. 2:2,10; 4:1,17; 5:2,8,15).
NASB, NKJV"according to the course of this world"
NRSV"following the course of this world"
TEV"followed the world's evil way"
NJB"living by the principles of this world"
This current fallen world system (i.e., age) is personified as an enemy (cf. Gal. 1:4). It is fallen mankind attempting to meet all needs apart from God. In John's writing it is called "the world" (cf. 1 John 2:2,15-17; 3:1,13,17; 4:1-17; 5:4,5,19) or "Babylon" (cf. Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2,10,21). In our modern terminology it is called "atheistic humanism." See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Kosmos at Col. 1:6.
NASB, NKJV"according to the prince of the power of the air"
NRSV"following the rules of the power of the air"
TEV"you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space"
NJB"obeying the ruler who governs the air"
This is the second enemy of fallen mankind, Satan the accuser. Mankind is subjected to a personal angelic tempter (cf. Genesis 3, Job 1-2, Zechariah 3). He is called the ruler or god of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19).
In the NT the air is the realm of the demonic. The lower air (aēr) was seen by the Greeks to be impure and therefore the domain of evil spirits. Some see this use of "air" as referring to the immaterial nature of the spiritual realm. The concept of "the rapture of the church" comes from the Latin translation of 1 Thess. 4:17, "caught up." Christians are going to meet the Lord in the midst of Satan's kingdom, "the air," to show its overthrow!
NASB, NKJV"in the sons of disobedience"
NRSV"among those who are disobedient"
TEV"the people who disobey God"
NJB"in the rebellious"
This was a Hebrew idiom for rebellion and permanent character (cf. Eph. 5:6).
2:3 "we too all formerly lived" In Ephesians "we" refers to the Jewish believers, in this case, Paul and his ministry team. The ending phrase "even as the rest," makes it possible that this phrase refers to all of the OT chosen people, the Jews. This verb is an aorist passive indicative. The passive voice would emphasize that fallen mankind was being manipulated by outside evil spiritual forces, like Satan or the demonic, mentioned in Eph. 2:2 and 3:10; 6:12.
NASB, NKJV"in the lusts of our flesh"
NRSV"in the passions of our flesh"
TEV"according to our natural desires"
This is the third enemy of fallen man. Although it is not listed in a grammatically parallel structure ("according to. . .") with the two enemies in Eph. 2:2, it is a theological parallel. Mankind's fallen, egocentric self (cf. Genesis 3) is its worst enemy (cf. Gal. 5:19-21). It twists and manipulates everything and everyone to one's own self interest (cf. Rom. 7:14-25).
Paul uses the term "flesh" in two distinct ways. Only context can determine the distinction. In Eph. 2:11,15; 5:29,31; 6:5 and 12 it means "the human person," not "the fallen sin nature" as here. See Special Topic: Flesh (sarx) at Col. 1:22.
NASB"indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind"
NKJV"fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind"
NRSV"following the desires of the flesh and senses"
TEV"and did whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds"
NJB"ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas"
This is a Present active participle which emphasizes continual, ongoing, habitual action. The human body and the mind are not evil in and of themselves, but they are the battleground of temptation and sin (cf. Eph. 4:17-19; Romans 6 and 7).
▣ "by nature" This refers to mankind's fallen, Adamic propensities (cf. Genesis 3; Ps. 51:5; Job 14:4; Rom. 5:12-21; 7:14-25). It is surprising that the rabbis in general do not emphasize the fall of humanity in Genesis 3. They instead assert that mankind has two intents (yetzers), one good, one bad. Humans are dominated by their choices. There is a famous rabbinical proverb: "Every man has a black and a white dog in his heart. The one he feeds the most is the one that becomes the biggest." However, the NT presents several theological reasons for mankind's sin (1) the fall of Adam; (2) willful ignorance; and (3) sinful choices.
▣ "children of wrath" "Children of. . .", like "sons of. . .", is an Hebraic idiomatic phrase for a person's character. God is opposed to sin and rebellion in His creation. The wrath of God is both temporal (in time) and eschatological (at the end of time).
NASB"even as the rest"
NKJV"made us sit together"
NRSV, TEV"like everyone else"
NJB"as the rest of the world"
This refers to the lostness of all humans, both Jew and Gentile (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:21). Paul uses the term "rest" to refer to the lost (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13; 5:6).
2:4 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us" There is such a dramatic switch between the hopelessness and helplessness of fallen mankind in Eph. 2:1-3 and the marvelous grace and mercy of God in Eph. 2:4-7.
What a great truth! God's mercy and love are the keys to salvation (cf. Eph. 2:7). It is His merciful character (cf. Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8-9; Eph. 1:7,18; 2:7; 3:8,16;), not mankind's performance, that offers a way of righteousness (cf. Rom 3:21-31). See note on "riches" at Eph. 1:7.
It is significant that this verse on God's grace contains a present participle and an aorist active indicative. God has loved us in the past (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10) and continues to love us (cf. 1 John 4:7-8, 16)!
2:5 "even when we were dead in our transgressions," This phrase is parallel to Eph. 2:1a. Paul returns to his original thought after his parenthetical thought (cf. Eph. 2:1-3) about the lostness of mankind. In the midst of our need, God acted in love (cf. Rom. 5:6,8).
▣ "made us alive together with Christ" This English phrase reflects one Greek word (suzōpoieō). This is the main verb of the sentence (aorist active indicative) which begins in Eph. 2:1. This is the first of three compound aorist verbs with the Greek preposition, syn, which meant "joint participation with." Jesus was raised from the dead in Eph. 1:20 and believers have been quickened to spiritual life through Him (cf. Col. 2:13; 3:1). Believers are now truly alive with Christ. We have resurrection life now! Death, the last enemy, has been defeated (cf. 1 Cor. 15).
▣ 2:5,8 "by grace you have been saved" This is a Perfect passive periphrastic participle, repeated in Eph. 2:8 for emphasis. This meant that believers have been saved in the past, by an outside agent, with abiding results; "they have been and continue to be saved by God." This same construction is repeated in Eph. 2:8 for emphasis. See Special Topic at Eph. 1:7.
This is one of the biblical passages which forms the basis for the doctrine of the security of the believer (cf. John 6:37, 39; 10:28; 17:2, 24; 18:9; Rom. 8:31-39). Like all biblical doctrines, it must be balanced (held in tension) with other truths and texts.
2:6 "raised us with Him" This is the second of the aorist compounds with syn. Believers have already been raised with Christ. Believers were buried with Him in baptism (cf. Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3-11) and raised with Him by the Father (cf. Col. 2:13; Rom. 6:4-5) who raised Jesus (raised by the Spirit in Rom. 8:11). These are special redemptive analogies. Believers spiritually participate in the major events of Jesus' experience: crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and enthronement! Believers share His life and suffering; they will also share His glory (cf. Rom. 8:17)!
NASB, NRSV"seated us with Him"
NKJV"made us sit together"
TEV"to rule with him"
NJB"gave us a place with him"
This is the third of the aorist compounds with syn. Our position in Him is one of present, as well as future, victory (cf. Rom. 8:37)! The concept of sitting down with Him meant reigning with Him. Jesus is the King of Kings sitting on the throne of God the Father and believers are even now co-reigning with Him (cf. Matt. 19:28; Rom. 5:17; Col. 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26; 3:21).
NRSV"in the heavenly places"
TEV"in the heavenly world"
This locative (of sphere) neuter plural adjective, "in the heavenly places," is only used in Ephesians (cf. Eph. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). From the context of all of its usages, it must mean the spiritual realm in which believers live here and now, not heaven.
2:7 "in the ages to come" The Jews believed in two ages, the current evil age (Gal. 1:4) and the coming righteous age (see Special Topic at Eph. 1:21). This New Age of righteousness would be inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah in the power of the Spirit. In Eph. 1:21 "age" is singular, here it is plural (cf. 1 Cor 2:7; Heb. 1:2; 11:3). This implies that (1) there are at least two ages or (2) the plural is used to accentuate and magnify the coming age-a rabbinical idiom called a "plural of majesty." This use of the plural in a symbolic sense can be seen in the passages that refer to the past "ages" (cf. Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2).
Some scholars believe this was simply a metaphor for eternity because of the way the phrase was used in secular Koine Greek and in several places in the NT (cf. Luke 1:33, 55; John 12:34; Rom. 9:5; Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:17).
▣ "He might show" This is an aorist middle subjunctive. God clearly manifested His own character (cf. Eph. 1:5-7). This term means "to publicly display" (cf. Rom. 9:17,22). God's mercy and purpose in Christ are clearly manifested to the angels by His treatment of fallen mankind (cf. Eph. 3:10; 1 Cor. 4:9).
▣ "surprising" Huperballō. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Eph. 1:19.
2:8 "For by grace" Salvation is by the "grace" of God (cf. Eph. 1:3-14). The character of God is revealed through His mercy (cf. Eph. 2:4-6). Believers are the trophies of His love. Grace is best defined as the unmerited, undeserved love of God. It flows from God's nature through Christ and is irrespective of the worth or merit of the one loved.
▣ "you have been saved" This is a perfect passive periphrastic participle which is a repeat of Eph. 2:5 (see note there). Its thrust is that "believers have been and continue to be" saved by God.
In the OT the term "save" spoke of "physical deliverance" (cf. James 5:15). In the NT this meaning has taken on a spiritual dimension. God delivers believers from the results of the fall and gives them eternal life. He restores the image of God and enables fellowship with God again.
See Special Topic at Eph. 1:7.
▣ "through faith" Faith receives God's free gift in Christ (cf. Rom. 3:22,25; 4:5; 9:30; Gal. 2:16; 3:24; 1 Pet. 1:5). Mankind must respond to God's offer of grace and forgiveness in Christ (cf. John 1:12; 3:16-17,36; 6:40; 11:25-26; Rom. 10:9-13).
God deals with fallen mankind by means of a covenant. He always takes the initiative (cf. John 6:44, 65) and sets the agenda and the boundaries (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). He allows fallen mankind to participate in their own salvation by responding to His covenant offer. The mandated response is both initial and continuing faith. It involves repentance, obedience, service, worship, and perseverance.
The term "faith" in the OT is a metaphorical extension of a stable stance. It came to denote that which is sure, trustworthy, dependable, and faithful. None of these describe even redeemed fallen mankind. It is not mankind's trustworthiness, or faithfulness, or dependability, but God's. We trust in His trustworthy promises, not our trustworthiness! Covenant obedience flows from gratitude! The focus has always been on His faithfulness, not the believers' faith! Faith cannot save anyone. Only grace saves, but it is received by faith. The focus is never on the amount of faith (cf. Matt. 17:20), but on its object (Jesus).
▣ "and that" This is the Greek demonstrative pronoun (touto), which is neuter in gender. The closest nouns, "grace" and "faith," are both feminine in gender. Therefore, this must refer to the whole process of our salvation in the finished work of Christ.
There is another possibility based on a similar grammatical construction in Phil. 1:28. If this is the case then this adverbial phrase relates to faith, which is also a gift of God's grace! Here is the mystery of God's sovereignty and human free will.
▣ "not of yourselves" This is the first of three phrases which clearly show that salvation is not based on human performance: (1) "not of yourselves" Eph. 2:8; (2) "gift of God" Eph. 2:8; and (3) "not as a result of works" Eph. 2:9.
▣ "the gift of God" This is the essence of grace-love with no strings attached (cf. Rom. 3:24; 6:23). The paradox of salvation as both a free gift and a mandated covenant response are difficult to grasp. Yet both are true! Salvation is truly free, yet costs everything. Most biblical doctrines are presented as tension-filled pairs of truths (security vs. perseverance, faith vs. works, God's sovereignty vs. human free will, predestination vs. human response and transcendence vs. immanence).
2:9 "not as a result of works," Salvation is not by merit (cf. Rom. 3:20, 27-28; 9:11, 16; Gal. 2:16; Phil 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). This is in direct contrast to the false teachers.
▣ "so that no one may boast" Salvation is by God's grace, not human effort, so there is no room for human glorying (cf. Rom. 3:27; 4:2). If believers boast, let them boast in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:31, which is a quote from Jer. 9:23-24).
2:10 "we are His workmanship," The English word "poem" comes from this Greek term (poiēma). This word is only used two times in the NT, here and Rom. 1:20. This is the believers' position in grace. They are paradoxically His finished product which is still in process!
▣ "created in Christ Jesus" This is an aorist passive participle. The Spirit forms believers through Christ's ministry by the will of the Father (cf. Eph. 1:3-14). This act of a new spiritual creation is described in the same terms used of the initial creation in Genesis (cf. Gen. 3:9; Col. 1:16).
▣ "for good works" Believers' lifestyles after they meet Christ are an evidence of their salvation (cf. James and 1 John). They are saved by grace through faith unto works! They are saved to serve! Faith without works is dead, as are works without faith (cf. Matt. 7:21-23 and James 2:14-26). Salvation is a gate and a way/road. The goal of the Father's choice is that believers be "holy and blameless" (cf. Eph. 1:4).
Paul was often attacked for his radically free gospel because it seemed to encourage godless living. A gospel so seemingly unconnected to moral performance must lead to abuse. Paul's gospel was free in the grace of God, but it also demanded an appropriate response, not only in initial repentance, but in ongoing repentance. Godly living is the result, not lawlessness. Good works are not the mechanism of salvation, but the result. This paradox of a completely free salvation and a cost-everything response is difficult to communicate, but the two must be held in a tension-filled balance.
American individualism has distorted the gospel. Humans are not saved because God loves them so much individually, but because God loves fallen mankind, mankind made in His image. He saves and changes individuals to reach more individuals. The ultimate focus of love is primarily corporate (cf. John 3:16), but it is received individually (cf. John 1:12; Romans 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 15:1).
▣ "which God prepared beforehand" This strong term (pro + hetoimos, " to prepare before") relates to the theological concept of predestination (cf. Eph. 1:4-5,11) and is used only here and in Rom. 9:23. God chose a people to reflect His character. Through Christ, the Father has restored His image in fallen mankind (cf. Gen. 1:26-27).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: EPHESIANS 2:11-22
11Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-12remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
2:11 "Therefore" This could refer to (1) Eph. 2:1-10, or (2) Eph. 1:3-2:10. Paul often uses this word to start a new literary unit by building on the combined truths of previous units (cf. Rom. 5:1; 8:1, 12:1).
This is the third major truth of Paul's doctrinal section (Eph. 1-3). The first was God's eternal choice based on His gracious character, the second was the hopelessness of fallen humanity, saved by God's gracious acts through Christ which must be received and lived out by faith. Now the third, God's will has always been the salvation of all humans (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5), both Jew and Gentile (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13). No human intellect (i.e., Gnostics) understood these revealed truths.
▣ "remember" This is a present active imperative. These Gentiles are commanded to continue to remember their previous alienation from God, Eph. 2:11-12.
▣ "that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh" This is literally "nations" (ethnos). It refers to all peoples who are not of the line of Jacob. In the OT the term "nations" (go'im) was a derogatory way of referring to all non-Jews.
▣ "who are called 'Uncircumcision'" Even in the OT, this rite was an outward sign of inner faith (cf. Lev. 26:41-42; Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4). The "Judaizers" of Galatians claimed that this was still God's will and was indispensable for salvation (cf. Acts 15:1ff; Gal. 2:11-12). This was probably a term of derision. Be careful not to confuse the symbol with the spiritual reality for which it stands (cf. Acts 2:38 for another example).
NASB"separate from Christ"
NKJV, NRSV"without Christ"
TEV"apart from Christ"
NJB"you had no Christ"
This is literally "on separate foundations." These next few phrases, like Eph. 2:1-3, show the helplessness and hopelessness of the Gentiles without Christ.
NKJV, NRSV"being aliens"
This is a perfect passive participle meaning "have been and continued to be excluded." In the OT this term referred to resident non-citizens with limited rights (aliens). The Gentiles had been and continued to be separated, alienated from the Covenant of YHWH.
▣ "the commonwealth of Israel" This is literally "citizenship" (politeia). This word came into English as "politics." It refers to the chosen descendants of Abraham. Their benefits are enumerated in Romans 9:4-5.
▣ "to the covenants of promise," The NT can refer to the OT as one covenant or as several covenants. This theological tension can be viewed as one faith covenant expressed in (1) differing requirements or (2) given to different persons. God confronted OT persons in different ways. His word to Adam was about things in the garden of Eden, to Noah about the ark, to Abraham about a son and a place to live, to Moses about leading the people, etc. But to all it involved obedience to the word of God! Some groups (dispensationalists) focus on the differentness. Other groups (Calvinists) focus on the unifying faith aspect. Paul focused on the covenant of Abraham (cf. Romans 4) as setting the paradigm for all faith relationships.
The New Covenant is like the old covenants in its demand for obedience and personal faith in God's revelation. It is different in how one is right with God (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). The Mosaic covenant focused on human obedience and performance, while the NT focuses on the obedience and performance of Christ. This New Covenant is God's way of uniting Jews and Gentiles by faith in Christ (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).
The New Covenant, like the old, is both unconditional (God's promise of grace and forgiveness) and conditional (human response). It reflects both the sovereignty of God (predestination) and the free choices of mankind (faith, repentance, obedience, perseverance).
▣ "having no hope and without God in the world" If there is truly one creator God and Israel was His chosen people, the Gentiles were cut off without any hope, lost in idolatry and paganism (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13 and Rom. 1:18-2:16).
2:13 "But now" There is a contrast between the hopeless past of the Gentiles, Eph. 2:11-12, and their great hope in the gospel, Eph. 2:13-22.
▣ "you who formerly were far off have been brought near" This same concept is repeated in Eph. 2:17, where Isa. 57:19 is quoted. In Isaiah this text referred to Jewish exiles but here in Ephesians it refers to Gentiles. This is one example of Paul's typological use of OT passages. The NT Apostles have universalized the OT hope. As the exiled Jews were apart from God, so too, the Gentiles were alienated from God.
▣ "by the blood of Christ." This referred to the vicarious, substitutionary atonement of Christ (cf. Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:25; 5:6-10; 2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:14,28; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:5). God's family is no longer national, but spiritual (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 4:16-25).
The blood of Christ was a sacrificial metaphor (cf. Leviticus 1-2) for the death of the Messiah (cf. TEV). John the Baptist said of Jesus, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (cf. John 1:29). Jesus came to die (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isa. 53; Mark 10:45).
It also was a way to assert the true humanity of Jesus, (cf. Eph. 2:15) which the Gnostics denied.
2:14 This verse has three verbals. The first is a present indicative. Jesus continues to be and to provide our peace. The second and third are aorist active participles ("made both one" and "broke down the barrier"); all that is necessary has been accomplished to unite Jews and Gentiles into one new entity (the church).
Peace between Jew and Gentile is the focus of this literary unit, Eph. 2:11-3:13. This was the mystery of the gospel hidden in ages past. The term "peace" refers to
1. peace between God and mankind (cf. John 14:27; 16:33; Rom. 5:1-11; Phil. 4:7,9)
2. peace between Jew and Gentile, Eph. 2:14, 15, 17 (cf. Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11)
See note at Eph. 2:15.
▣ "He Himself is our peace," "He Himself" (autos) is emphasized (cf. Eph 2:15). The term "peace" means to "restore that which was broken" (reconciliation). Jesus the Messiah is called the Prince of Peace ( cf. Isa. 9:6 and Zech. 6:12-13). God's peace in Christ has several aspects. See note at Eph. 2:15 and Special Topics: Peace and The Christian and Peace at Col. 1:20.
NASB"who made both groups into one"
NKJV"who has made both one"
NRSV"he has made both groups into one"
TEV"by making Jews and Gentiles one people"
NJB"has made the two into one"
Believers are no longer Jew or Gentile, but Christian (cf. Eph. 1:15; 2:15; 4:4; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). This was the mystery of God as revealed in Ephesians. This has always been God's plan (Gen. 3:15). God chose Abraham to choose a people, to choose a world (Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6). This is the unifying theme of the Old and New Covenants (Testaments). See Special Topic: Racism at Col. 3:11.
NASB"the barrier of the dividing wall,"
NKJV"the middle wall of division"
NRSV"the dividing wall"
TEV"the wall that separated"
NJB"the barrier which used to keep them apart"
This is literally "the middle wall of partition." This was a rare term. In context it obviously refers to the Mosaic law (cf. v.15). Some commentators have asserted that it was an allusion to the wall in Herod's Temple between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the Women which separated Jewish and Gentile worshipers. This same symbolism of the removal of barriers is seen in the veil of the Temple rent from top to bottom at Jesus' death (cf. Matt. 27:51). Unity is now possible. Unity is now the will of God (cf. Eph. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-10).
In Gnosticism this term referred to a barrier between heaven and earth which may be alluded to in Eph. 4:8-10.
The term "abolish" is a favorite of Paul's (cf. Rom. 3:31; 6:6; Col. 2:14). It literally means "to make null and void" or "to bring to no effect." It is an aorist active participle. Jesus has totally eliminated the death sentence of the OT Law (cf. Eph. 2:16; Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:13).
This does not mean to imply that the OT is not inspired and important revelation for the NT believer (cf. Matt. 5:17-19). It does mean that the Law is not the means of salvation (cf. Acts 15; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews). The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-36) is based on a new heart and a new spirit, not human performance of a legal code. The Law functions in sanctification, but not justification. Believing Jews and believing Gentiles now have the same standing before God-the imputed righteousness of Christ.
NASB, NKJV"in His flesh"
TEV(2:14)"in his own body"
NJB(2:14)"in his own person"
This emphasizes Jesus' humanity (cf. Col. 1:22) as well as His Incarnational ministry (cf. Eph. 4:8-10). The Gnostic false teachers would have denied both because of their ontological dualism between spirit, which they saw as good, and matter, which they saw as evil. See Intro. to Ephesians "The Philosophical and Theological Background of the False Teachers [Gnosticism];(cf. Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:22).
▣ "the enmity" The balanced structure equates "the enmity" (cf. Eph. 2:16) with "the Law of commandment contained in the ordinances." The OT said "do and live," but fallen mankind was unable to perform the Mosaic Law. Once broken, the OT laws became a curse (cf. Gal. 3:10); "the soul that sins will surely die" (cf. Ezek. 18:4,20). The New Covenant removed the enmity by giving humans a new heart, a new mind, and a new spirit (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26-27). Performance becomes the result, not the goal. Salvation is a gift, not a reward for work accomplished.
NASB"the Law of commandments contained in ordinances,"
NKJV"the law of commandments continued in ordinances"
NRSV"the law with its commandments and ordinances"
TEV"the Jewish Law, with its commandments and rules"
NJB"the rules and decrees of the Law"
This referred to the way of salvation which was thought to be found only through performance of the Law of Moses (cf. Rom. 9:30-32; Gal. 2:15-21).
▣ "that in Himself He might make" The pronoun "Himself" is emphatic. God's eternal purpose of uniting all humans in salvation (cf. Gen. 3:15) and fellowship was accomplished exclusively through the performance of the person of the Messiah, not the Mosaic Law.
▣ "one new man," This Greek term means "new" in kind, not time. The people of God are not Jews, not Gentiles, but Christians! The Church is a new entity, in and through and for Christ (cf. Rom. 11:36; Col. 1:16; Heb. 2:10).
▣ "establishing peace" This is a favorite term for Paul. It is used eleven times in Romans and seven times in Ephesians (cf. Eph. 1:2; 2:14,15,17; 4:3; 6:15,23). He uses it in three ways:
1. peace between God and mankind, Col. 1:20
2. subjective peace with God through Christ, John 14:27; 16:33; Phil. 4:7
3. peace between peoples, Eph. 2:11-3:13.
This is a present passive participle. Christ continues to make peace for those fallen children of Adam who will respond by repentance and faith. Christ's peace is not automatic (aorist subjunctive of Eph. 2:16) but it is available to all (cf. Rom. 5:12-21).
2:16 "might reconcile" The Greek term means to transfer someone from one state of being to another. It implies an exchange of contrasting positions (cf. Rom. 5:10-11; Col. 1:20,22; 2 Cor. 5:18,21). In a sense reconciliation is the removal of the curse of Genesis 3. God and mankind are restored to intimate fellowship even in this life, in this fallen world system. This reconciliation with God expresses itself in a new relationship with other humans and ultimately with nature (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25; Rom. 8:18-23; Rev. 22:3). The reuniting of Jews and Gentiles through Christ (cf. Eph. 1:7) is one beautiful example of God's unifying work in our world.
▣ "in one body" This metaphor of unity is used in several different ways in Paul's writings.
1. the physical body of Christ (cf. Col. 1:22) or the body of Christ, the church (cf. Col. 1:23; Eph. 4:12; 5:23,30)
2. the new humanity of both Jew and Gentile (cf. Eph. 2:16)
3. a way of referring to the unity and diversity of spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-13,27)
In a sense they are all related to #1.
▣ "through the cross" The Jewish leaders meant Christ's cross to be a curse (cf. Deut. 21:23). God used it as a means of redemption (cf. Isaiah 53). Jesus became "the curse" for us (cf. Gal. 3:13)! It became His victory chariot (cf. Col. 2:14-15), giving believers victory over (1) the OT curse; (2) the evil powers; and (3) the enmity between Jew and Gentile.
NASB"by it having put to death the enmity"
NKJV"thereby putting to death the enmity"
NRSV"thus putting to death that hostility through it"
TEV"Christ destroyed the enmity"
NJB"in his own person he killed the hostility"
The English translations show that this phrase can be understood in two ways. This is because the singular pronoun can be a dative masculine (TEV, NJB) or dative neuter (NASB, NRSV). In context either is possible. The emphasis of the larger context is on Christ's finished redemptive work.
2:17 This is an allusion to Isa. 57:19 or possibly 52:7. Paul, by typological exegesis, applied OT texts to exiled Jews to Gentiles. Even the rabbis, going back to Isa. 56:6, used this phrase to refer to Gentile proselytes.
2:18 The work of the Trinity is clearly stated in this book (cf. Eph. 1:3-14,17; 2:18; 4:4-6). Although the term "trinity" is not a biblical word, the concept surely is (cf. Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; John 14:26; Acts 2:33-34,38-39; Rom. 1:4-5; 5:1,5; 8:9-10; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 13:14; Gal. 4:4-6; Eph. 1:3-14; 2:18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 1 Thess. 1:2-5; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21). See Special Topic at Eph. 1:3.
▣ "we both have our access" This is a present active indicative meaning "we continue to have access." This is the concept of Jesus personally bringing believers into the presence of God and giving them a personal introduction (cf. Rom. 5:2; it is also used in the sense of confidence in Heb. 4:16; 10:19,35).
▣ "in one Spirit" This is also emphasized in Ephesians 4:4. The false teachers were causing disunity, but the Spirit brought unity (not uniformity)!
2:19 The Gentiles who were estranged (Eph. 2:11-12) are now fully included. This is clearly stated by the use of four common biblical metaphors.
1. fellow citizens (city)
2. saints (holy nation set apart for God)
3. God's household (family members)
4. a spiritual building (temple, Eph. 2:20-22a)
▣ "saints" See Special Topic at Col. 1:2.
2:20 "having been built upon" This is an aorist passive participle. The foundation (cf. Eph. 2:12) of our faith has been fully, finally, and completely laid by the Triune God. God's good news was proclaimed by the Apostles and prophets (cf. Eph. 3:5).
▣ "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" Jesus laid the foundation of the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11). Jesus is the new temple (cf. John 2:19-22). The OT prophesied the coming Kingdom of God, Jesus' Spirit-led life, death, and resurrection accomplished it, and the Apostles preached its reality. The only question is, to whom does the term "prophets" refer? Are they OT prophets or NT prophets (cf. Eph. 3:5; 4:1)? The order of the terms implies NT prophets (cf. Eph. 2:3:5; 4:11), but the OT Messianic allusion to the "cornerstone" implies OT prophecy.
The reason for the distinction between OT and NT prophets is the issue of revelation. OT prophets wrote Scripture. They were God's instrument of inspired self-disclosure. However, prophecy is an ongoing gift in the NT (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Does Scripture writing continue? There must be a distinction drawn between inspiration (Apostles and OT prophets) and illumination and spiritual giftedness (NT gifted believers).
▣ "the cornerstone" This is an OT Messianic metaphor (cf. Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; 1 Pet. 2:4-8). In the OT God's stability, strength and perseverance are often visualized in "Rock" as a title (cf. Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 28:1; 31:3; 42:9; 71:3; 78:15).
The metaphor of Jesus as a stone.
1. a rejected stone - Ps. 118:22
2. a building stone - Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16
3. a stone to stumble over - Isa. 8:14-15
4. an overcoming and conquering stone (kingdom) - Dan. 2:45
5. Jesus used these passages to describe Himself (cf. Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17)
He was the key construction item who was ignored in OT ritualism and legalism (cf. Isa. 8:14).
2:21-22 The collective or corporate idea of God's people seen in Eph. 2:19 (twice), 21 and 22 was expressed in the plural "saints." To be saved is to be part of a family, a building, a body, a temple (cf. Eph. 1:23; 4:16; Col. 2:19).
The concept of the church as a temple is expressed in 1 Cor. 3:16-17. This is an emphasis on the corporate nature of the church. The individual aspect was expressed in 1 Cor. 6:16. Both are true! Jesus is the new temple, cf. John 2:19-22.
The verbs in Eph. 2:21-22 also have a corporate focus. They have the compound syn which means "joint participation with." They are both present passive. God is continuing to build/add to His church.
There is a Greek manuscript problem connected with the phrase "the whole building." The ancient uncial manuscripts א*, B, D, F and G have no article, while אc, A, C, and P do. The question is, was Paul referring to one large building (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NIV, TEV, REB) or to several smaller buildings (ASV, NJB, Phillips) united in some way? The United Bible Society's 4th Edition Greek text gives a "B" rating to the anarthrous construction, which indicates they are "almost certain" that it refers to one building. This one building is not finished. It is in the process of growing. The building metaphor alluded to the spiritual temple (the people of God).
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.
1. Are all humans really estranged from God?
2. Do humans have a significant part in their own salvation?
3. Why is the union of Jew and Gentile so significant?
4. How did Jesus make the Law "null and void"?
5. Is the Law of God eternal? How do Christians relate to the Mosaic Law and the entire Old Testament?
6. Why does Paul emphasize the building metaphor in Eph. 2:19-23?
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