Ephesians 2Observe here, 1. The deplorable condition which the Ephesians were in by nature, and all persons with them before their conversion from sin to God. It is a state of spiritual death; the natural and unregenerate man is a dead man, spiritually dead in sin. Our apostle doth not say they were in a dying, but in a dead condition; not half dead, but altogether dead.
But how so?
Not dead as to natural actions, they can eat and drink; not as to rational actions, they can reason and discourse; not as to civil actions, they can buy and sell, bargain and trade. Nor is the natural man dead to moral actions; he can pray, read, and hear the word, meditate upon it, and discourse of it; if he please, he can hearken to the voice of God's judgments, consider and call his own ways to remembrance.
But as to spiritual acts, to be spiritually performed, here he is dead, till quickened by a vital act of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to enlighten blind eyes, and whose delight it is to quicken and enliven dead souls.
But what doth this state of spiritual death imply?
It doth suppose and imply a state of separation from God, insensibility of that dismal state, an impotency and inability to recover ourselves out of that condition, and our loathsomeness and offensiveness to Almighty God, whilst we continue in it.
In short, every unregenerate man is a dead man, in a double sense.
He is, 1. Legally dead, being under the condemnatory sentence of the law; we call a man underthe sentence of death, a dead man.
2. Spiritually dead, as being destitute of a principle of spiritual life, a quickening principle to enable the soul to perform spiritual operations. Thus before regeneration are we dead, in opposition to justification: and dead in opposition to sanctification also; and the fatal instrument, by which our souls die, is here discovered, dead in or by trespasses and sins. This is the sword that kills souls, and cuts them off from God. You hath he quickened, being dead in trespasses and sins.
Observe, 2. The choice and singular privilege and favour vouchsafed to the Ephesians, in and under the power of spiritual death; they were quickened; that is, made spiritually alive by the quickening or life-giving power of the Spirit of God. A regenerate man is a living man; he lives a life of justification, which consists in pardon of sin.
A condemned man's pardon is his life; and he lives a life of sanctification, having received from the Holy Spirit a vital principle of grace in all the powers and faculties of the soul: justification reconciles God to us, sanctification reconciles us to God; justification takes away the legal enmity, sanctification the natural enmity between God and us.
Here note, That the person who is spiritually quickened, is universally quickened; there is not a faculty in the soul but is spiritually dead, and therefore not a faculty but must be spiritually quickened. As there is an universal pollution in every faculty, so must there be an universal renovation; for no spiritual duty can be performed without it, no spiritual privilege can be enjoyed without it, and we can never be saved hereafter, is not spiritually quickened here: but if quickened aright, we live a divine life, the life (in some measure) which God himself lives; and this must needs be an excellent life and a pleasant life here on earth, and shall be an everlasting life with Christ in heaven: Whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die.
Observe 3. The person quickening described: You hath he quickened; that is, God the Father, who, Eph 1:17, is said to have given them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of himself. Man in his natural state considered, is unable of himself to quicken himself; he doth not so much as desire the quickening grace of God, till God gives the grace of desire.
Alas! the understanding is naturally so blind, the heart so hard, and the will so stout and stubborn, that none but a divine power can enlighten the one, and efficaciously incline the other: it is a change of stone into flesh, of a dead sinner into a living saint. A change from nature to grace requires as much or more divine power, than a change from grace to glory. To see a creature naturally filthy, now to delight in purity; to see a sinner that by nature drinks in iniquity like water, now thirsting after righteousness; to see a man that loathed the holy law and holy ways of God, now longing to walk in them, and to come to an exact conformity to God in them; these acts are above nature, contrary to nature, and consequently the God of grace is the author of them: You hath he quickened.
Our apostle having in the former verse described the Ephesians by their natural state and inward condition, as dead in trespasses and sins, doth in this verse set forth their misery in respect of their outward conversation; they walked in and made a constant trade of sin. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, &c.
Here note, 1. Their constant and continued course of life, set forth by walking; a metaphor frequently used in scripture, to set forth the tenor of a person's conversation; wherein, that is, in which sins in time past ye walked.
Note 2. The path in which they walked, in sins and trepasses; this denotes the abundance of sin that was in them, and committed by them with facility and ease, with satisfaction and delight. Walking is a motion, a voluntary motion, a progressive motion, a pleasant and delightful motion: it is natural to men, whilst unregenerate, to walk in sin with some sort of delight and pleasure; but alas! it is the pleasure of the beast, and not of the man, a sensual, and not a rational satisfaction.
Note, 3. The guides which they are said here to follow: the world and Satan.
1. The world; that is, the corrupt course and sinful customs of the men of the world, according to the time and place in which they live; for though the world alters in the course and fashion of it, from time to time, yet it is, and ever will be, the world still; and the unregenerate part of mankind will always walk according to the course of this world.
The second guide which the Ephesians followed, was Satan, styled here a prince, in regard of that mighty power which he has in and over the men of the world; and the prince of the power of the air, because he exercises his power (by God's permission) in the lower regions of the air. All the elements and meteors stoop to his direction; when God gives him leave he can command the fire, the water, the winds, the thunders; all these powers that are in the air he can command, and therefore he is called their prince; yet here is a matter of comfort to us, Satan is the prince of the air only; if so, when the air shall cease, his kingdom shall cease; when the world is ended his dominion and power is ended.
Again, there is farther comfort in this, Satan is prince of the air, but Christ is prince of heaven and earth, and the air too: both our prayers whilst we live, and our souls when we die, pass through the air, but Satan can neither intercept the one, nor stop the other, in their passage thither. Christ, when he ascended into heaven, went through the air, this kingdom of devils, and spoiled their principalities and powers; he entered heaven in the sight of them all, and led them all captives in triumph at his chariot, so that they shall never hurt the souls of his people, not ever keep them from heaven.
Again, the devil is here described by the influence he has upon the minds of sinners: he works in the children of disobedience. Satan's way of working in and upon obstinate and impenitent sinners, is very powerful and efficacious.
Hence it is said here, 1. That they are led by Satan, they walk according to the prince of the power of the air; that is, according to his guidance, according to his mind and will. He has them at his beck; he says to one sinner, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh.
2. They are excited and assisted by Satan: he works in them, and suggests evil thoughts to them; he filled the heart of Ananias and Sapphira to lie unto the Holy Ghost; he put a lie first into their hearts, and then into their mouths.
Now from hence we may infer, that the Holy Spirit of God doth always inwardly work in pious persons, enabling them to will and to do according to his own good pleasure. For it is unreasonable to conceive that the evil spirit should have more power over the children of disobedience, in whom he dwells, than the good Spirit has in those pious persons in whose hearts he is said to dwell. Surely the Spirit of God doth more to the saving of souls, than the devil can do to the damning of them.
Our apostle in these words is supposed to set forth the condition of the Jews by nature, as he had done before of the Gentiles; and that he declares, that even they had their conversation amongst the number of disobedient persons, and were no less obstinately rebellious against God than the disobedient Gentiles, following the motions of their corrupt lusts and vile affections; nay, he affirms roundly, concerning himself and all the Jews, without exception, that as to their way and course, whilst unregenerate, they did whatsoever their corrupt minds willed, liked, and inclined to; and as to their state, were by nature children of wrath, as much as others; yea, even as much as the despised Gentiles were.
Here note, 1. The case of all men, Jews and Gentiles, alike described, children of wrath; that is, our estate and course is such by nature as deserves destruction, as tends to and will end in destruction, without the renewing grace of God.
Note 2. The rise of this case, expressed by nature, which implies,
1. The term from which this commences, namely, from the first receiving of our beings and natures from our immediate parents, and together with the depravation of our natures we received an obnoxiousness to the wrath and curse of God.
2. It implies the ground for which this wrath doth impend and hang over us, namely, for that depravity of nature which since the fall is found with us.
Learn hence, 1. That original corruption is universal to all mankind, both Jew and Gentile.
2. That this original corruption leads to, and will lodge under, eternal wrath, every person in whom regeneration and transplantation into Christ are not found: We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
St. Paul having set forth that miserable state, which both Jews and Gentiles were in by nature, namely, dead in sins, and children of wrath; he doth next set forth their deliverance from that woeful estate, by the rich mercy and free grace of God: God, who is rich in mercy, &c.
Here observe, 1. The author of our deliverance, God; and the moving or impulsive cause of it, rich mercy and great love.
Where note, That God hath done more for us, infinitely more, than he did for the angels: he showed love to them, but mercy to us; they are vessels of honour, but we are vessels of mercy: the object of mercy, is a creature in distress and misery.
Note farther, That all the attributes in God are subjected to his love; this is the great prevailing attribute which sways all the rest: which way love goes, all attributes go; mercy, power, justice, and wisdom, they all work in subordination to love, they are at all love's beck, and love sets them all on work for the good and benefit of the object loved.
Note, 3. That the love which God bears to the children of men, is a great love; and the mercy which was set on work by it, is rich mercy; his love so great, that it can never be expressed; his mercy so rich, that it can never be conceived: rich mercy is abundant mercy, inconceivable mercy, inexhaustible mercy, sure mercy.
Note,4. The blessed effects and fruits of this great love and rich mercy in God towards the Ephesians, in quickening them when dead, in saving them when lost, in doing all things for them when they had undone themselves; God, who is rich in mercy--even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.
Learn hence, That poor lost sinners do stand in need of all the riches of mercy that are in God, in order to their regeneration and salvation: if ever we be saved, it is the riches of mercy that must save us.
Note, 5. How the apostle ascribes the whole work of their salvation to God's free grace, in opposition to any merit or worth in the persons to be saved: By grace ye are saved.
Learn hence, That the dependency our salvation has in the whole, and in all the parts of it, upon the free grace of God, is the great thing which St. Paul delighted to discover and make known to us here: By grace ye are saved; and he asserts it again, By grace, &c. Eph 2:8
The apostle here instances in two branches more of that salvation which he had in the foregoing verse affirmed to be of grace, namely, that of our resurrection and glorification; both which are yet to come, and yet they are spoken of as already past: when the Father raised and glorified Christ, all believers were raised and glorified in him; for in his resurrection and glorification he did sustain the quality of a public person, representing his whole church as their head and husband; and, accordingly, believers are and may be said to be raised already, and glorified already, not in their own persons, but in Christ their head. The apostle says, God has raised us up, and has made us sit together; not, he shall raise us, and will make us sit; to denote the dependency which our resurrection and glorification has upon Christ's, as the effects depend upon the cause, and also the undoubted certainty that they shall come to pass, Christ's resurrection and glorification being a pledge of ours.
Learn hence, 1. That Christ rose from the dead, and ascended up into heaven, not as a private person, but as the common head and parent, root and representative of his church and people; so that what he has done, they may be said to have done: they rose in him, and are set down in heaven in him; and blessed be God for the well-grounded hopes, that as we now sit together in Christ, so ere long we shall for ever sit together with Christ.
Learn, 2. That Jesus Christ is the cause of our resurrection and glorification, he is the efficient cause, the meritorious cause, and exemplary cause, of our resurrection and glorification.
Learn 3. From the phrase here used of sitting, and of sitting together in Christ, that believers shall certainly partake of the same kingly state and dignity, of the same honour and glory, of the same delight and pleasure, of the same rest and tranquillity, of the same state and security, with Christ in heaven. He hath made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
These words are expressive of the final cause, or special end, of that salvation which God propounded in his gracious workings upon the hearts of these Ephesians; namely, that in all present and succeeding ages, to the end of the world, he might give a convincing proof and example of the exceeding riches of his grace, for the encouragement of the greatest sinners to hope for mercy in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Learn hence, That the instances and examples of God's mercy, grace, and goodness, love and kindness, towards lost sinners, in one age, are and ought to be an encouragement to future generations to hope in the same fountain of rich grace, for pardon of sin, and salvation by Christ.
O! when we consider that others as unworthy as ourselves (these Ephesians, for instance) have been admitted to the participation of such divine favours, Lord, what encouragement is it to us, and to others, to venture our salvation upon the same grace!
Verily, the primitive Christians were intended by God as patterns of grace to succeeding Christians; nay, God did not only design them as patterns, but as pledges, that he would go on as he had begun, in after-ages to magnify the riches of his grace, in the conversion of the vilest and worst of sinners.
In these words our apostle informs the Ephesians, and in them all succeeding Christians, that their complete salvation, from the first to the last, from the lowest to the highest step, depends upon God's free favour and grace in Christ, and not upon any merit or desert in ourselves; works having no meritorious or casual influence upon our salvation, (for they are not causes, but effects, of that grace by which we are saved,) to the intent that all boasting may be excluded, and that all the saints' glorying may be in God, and not in themselves.
Note here, 1. That believers are saved already, in some sense; not only because they have salvation begun in their new birth here, but they have already a right and title to, yea, a pledge and an earnest of, complete salvation; believers are saved here.
Note, 2. That the believers' salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ.
Note 3. That faith, by and through which they are said to be saved, is not of themselves, it is the gift of God; faith is the gift of God as well as Jesus Christ, and the one as necessary as the other; for as the only way to heaven is by Christ, so the only way to Christ is by faith; as sin has put a vanity into the creature, so unbelief puts a vanity in Christ, that he should profit us nothing. Wrestle we then with God in prayer for a believing heart.
Our apostle having in the foregoing verses asserted the whole of our salvation to be of grace, and not of works, lest by magnifying of grace he should seem wholly to set aside good works, and the necessity of a holy life; he declares in this verse, that christians are ordained to them, created and prepared for them, and consequently they are effects flowing from grace, though not causes producing grace. We are his workmanship;
1. In our natural capacity, as men.
2. In our civil capacity, as such or such men, high or low, rich or poor.
3. In our spiritual capacity, as saints; this is intended here: believers are God's workmanship, as such by supernatural renovation and spiritual regeneration; they are not only once made, as other persons, but they are new made, as saints; not by receiving new faculties, but new qualities; for grace is not a substantial, but a qualitative, change.
Lord, as we are all thy workmanship by natural creation, let us be so by gracious renovation likewise! Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
Observe here, 1. The manner of this workmanship, created: this denotes two things;
1. That in their new making they were intended to good works: this was God's mind and meaning in fore-ordaining that they should walk in them.
2. That in their new making they were fitted and prepared for good works, therefore did they receive a new nature from God, new principles, new affections, on purpose to fit them for an holy life, fruitful in good works.
Here note, That as good works are antecedently necessary to salvation, so renewing grace is absolutely necessary to good works; therefore before there can be a good work, there must be a good workman, and that good workman must be God's workmanship, created anew through the power of God.
Observe, 2. The meritorious cause of this spiritual workmanship; and that is, Christ Jesus; We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus; that is, through the intervening meditation of Christ Jesus. The life which we live in this new creation state, namely, a life of holiness, it is purchased by his death, produced by his Spirit; all spiritual life comes from God, through Christ as a Mediator; he is a quickening head and life-giving spirit; God sent his Son that we might live by him 1John 4:9; Christ is first our ransom, and then the fountain of life unto our souls: created in Christ Jesus.
Observe, 3. The final cause of this divine workmanship; and that is, to good works: all those that are new creatures are created unto good works; so that a holy life is the necessary fruit of their new creation. New creatures are not to live idly, much less to live wickedly; but to make conscience of every duty, to bring forth fruit of piety towards God, of righteousness towards our neighbour, of love and universal charity towards all mankind. Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them: that is, God hath before prepared these works for us, and also prepared us for them;
he has prepared these works for us,
first by his decree and purpose; he that ordained the end, salvation, hath appointed good works as the means thereto, by his precept and command. He hath showed thee, O man, what is good, &c. Mic 6:8.
And as God hath prepared these works for us, so he hath prepared us for them by his Holy Spirit, making our hearts fit for our work, by enlightening our minds, and inclining our wills.
Learn hence, That new creatures are both ordained and obliged to, and also fitted and prepared for, good works: God will have his children distinguished from others by the good they do, as well as the devil's children are characterized by the mischief which they do.
Observe, lastly, The constancy of the christian's duty declared, with reference to good works: he is to walk in them.
Now, walking denotes and implies both a way and action. Walking,
1. It implies a way; and intimates plainly to us, tht good works are the way and means to obtain salvation: we can never come at heaven as the end, but by walking in the path of good works as the way and means.
2. An action: walking denotes spontaneity in the principle, progress and perseverance in the motion; he that walks, goes forward, gets ground, gives not over till he comes to his journey's end.
A good man is as diligent and zealous, as constant and persevering, in good works as if he were to be saved for them and by them; and at the same time relies by faith on the merits of the Mediator for his acceptance with God, renouncing all confidence in his own good works; he knows they cannot justify themselves, much less can they justify him, who has a better righteousness than that of his best obedience, to denominate him righteous in the sight of God.
Thus are we God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works; which God had before ordained that we should walk in them.
Our apostle doth two things in these two verses, namely,
1. He calls upon the Ephesians to remember their former miserable condition before conversion, when they were in their heathen and unregenerate state, when they were Gentiles and reproached by the Jews for being uncircumcised, and looked upon by the Jews as dogs; he calls upon them here, to remember their obligations to God, for bringing them out of this miserable state and deplorable condition; Remember, that in times past, ye were Gentiles in the flesh.
Learn hence, That believers, remembering and calling to mind the sin they were guilty of, and the misery they were exposed to, in their natural and unregenerate state, may many ways be of singular use and advantage to them, and be spiritually improved by them; namely, thus
1. To excite us to magnify the greatness of God's love, and to admire the freeness and riches of his grace. This we shall certainly do, when we remember, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
2. To inflame our love to Jesus Christ: Mary loved much, when she remembered that much was forgiven her.
3. To increase our godly sorrow for sin: Then shall they be confounded when they remember that I am pacified towards them for all their abominations, Ezek 16:63.
4. To quicken us up to greater zeal and industry for God: it was the remembrance of what Paul was before conversion, that fired him with holy zeal, and carried him forth with such vigour and industry after his conversion, that he laboured more abundantly than all the apostles.
5. The remembrance how bad we were ourselves before conversion, will be a special mean to keep up our hearts in hopes of, in prayers for, and endeavours after the conversion of others, though very bad at present. What they are, that thou once wert; and what thou now art, that they may also be.
Observe, 2. That as St. Paul does put the Ephesians in mind of their former miserable condition, in their heathenish and unregenerate state; so he does particularize the same, and branch it forth into its distinct parts and members.
When they were unconverted Gentiles,
1. They were without Christ, that is without the knowledge of Christ, without any relation to him, or interest in him, without union and communion with him, without any communications of life and light, of grace and holiness, of joy and comfort, of pardon and protection, received from him. They did not discern any excellency, nor taste any sweetness, in Christ; and consequently had no love to him, no longings after him, no delight or satisfaction in him.
Ah! miserable condition of a Christless soul: if thou art without Christ, thou are without the spirit and grace of Christ, to enlighten thee, to quicken thee, to sanctify and save thee.
2. They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel: that is, they were no members of Christ's church either visible or invisible: they did not so much as profess themselves to be a people, that stood in any relation to God; they were unchurched Gentiles; for in Jewry only was God known, and his name great in Israel, Ps 76:1
Verily, whatever the world thinks of it, it is a very great favour from God to be born within the pale of the visible church, and to have communion with her; for thereby we partake of many excellent privileges; namely, the word and sacraments, the communion of saints, together with the offers of Christ, and salvation by him.
3. They were strangers to the covenant of promise; that is, to the covenant of grace, first made with Adam after the fall, then with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, afterwards with Israel upon Mount Sinai; for which reason it is here by the apostle called covenants, in the plural number, though it was always one and the same covenant in substance; and its being called the covenants of promise, seems to point at the promise made to Adam, Gen 3:15 that first grand original promise, of which promise all the following promises were but branches, or more full explanations.
Now the Ephesians are here said to be strangers to the covenant of promise; because, as Gentiles, this covenant was never revealed to them, nor any offer of it made by the ministry of the word, and consequently they could have no actual interest in the blessings and privileges of it.
This intimates to us, that for men to live and die without an offer of the covenant of grace made unto them, is a woeful, sad, and dangerous condition, because their salvation is rendered in an ordinary way impossible, forasmuch as the terms upon which salvation may be had are concealed from them.
4. They were without hope; that is, they were without the grace of hope, and without the means of hope: they were without hopes of redemption, without hopes of redemption, without hopes of pardon and reconciliation, and consequently without any well-grounded hope of eternal life and salvation. Such as are Christless, must be hopeless; such as are without faith, must needs be without hope; and such as are without the promise, must necessarily be without faith: for the promise is the ground of hope.
Learn, That for a person to be without a well-grounded hope of future happiness, is a very deplorable case and condition; but all such as are without the pale of the Christian church, without the bond of the covenant of grace, without the offer of a Savior in the gospel, they must be without hope, even in this life, and so are of all men most miserable.
5. They were without God in the world; that is, without the knowledge of the true God, without worshipping of him as God, without any affiance or trust in him, without performing any obedience to him: not that the Ephesians, and other heathens, lived without any sense or sensible apprehension of the majesty and holiness of the true God: now,this is to live without God in the world; and verily such a life is worse than death.
The apostle calls all the Gentiles, not only the barbarous and savage, but the best polished and civilized nations, Atheon, Atheist, because they wanted the right knowledge of God by and through a Mediator: there is no knowing God acceptably, except we know him in Christ, and approach unto him by Christ.
In this affecting manner doth our apostle set before the Ephesians their dark and dismal state whilst Gentiles, and before brought into the Christian church by preaching the gospel of Christ unto them; they were without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. God grant that every unregenerate sinner may think of it till his heart and soul are affected with it.
The apostle having set before the Ephesians the black and dark part of their lives, before their conversion to Christianity, in the foregoing verse; comes here in this to acquaint them with the blessed change which was made in their state, and by whom. Now, says he, in or by Christ Jesus, ye, who were before afar off, namely, from Christ, his church, his covenant, from saving hope, and from God himself, are made as nigh as the Jews, and have as much right to expect the aforesaid benefits as they, the blood of Christ having purchased them for you, and sealed them to you; Ye that were before afar off, are now made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Where note, That persons who are most remote, and at the farthest distance from God, are sometimes unexpectedly brought home unto him: Ye who were afar off, are now made nigh.
Note, 2. That it is owing to the blood of Christ, to his death and sufferings, that any soul is brought into a state of nearness unto God, and finds acceptance with him: Ye are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
He is our peace: that is,
1. He is the Mediator of our peace, the great peace-maker betwixt God and men.
2.He is our peace: that is, the purchaser of our peace.
3. He is our peace; that is, the establisher of our peace. All which is to be understood, not only of peace betwixt God and man, but also betwixt man and man. Who hath made both one; that is, both Jews and Gentiles one church.
Here note, That there was a very great and deep-rooted enmity betwixt Jews and Gentiles, until Christ purchased their peace and reconciliation.
The Jews derided, scorned, and hated the Gentiles as unclean, compared them to dogs and swine.
The Gentiles, they reproached the Jews for circumcising their flesh, esteemed them, of all nations, the worst; and would hold their nose at the Jews when they met them, and cry, O faetentes Judaei! O ye stinking Jews! and turn away their eyes from them.
Learn from hence then, That the uniting of both Jew and Gentile into one church, was one blessed effect and sweet fruit of the purchase of Christ's blood; Christ's offering of himself was intended as a sacrifice for enmities between man and man, as well as for enmities between God and man: He is our peace, who hath made both one.
Observe next, What Christ hath done in order to his making peace between Jew and Gentile;
1. He has abolished the ceremonial law, called here a partition- wall, betwixt the Jews and the Gentiles; in allusion, no doubt, to that wall to Solomon's temple which separated the court of the Jews from that of the Gentiles, that they could neither come at, nor look at one another. So that this partition-wall being said to be broken down, intimates to us, that Jew and Gentile, who before had two manner of religions, the one in and under a covenant with God, the other afar off, and without God; yet now by Christ are both adopted into the same church, partakers of the same covenants, incorporated into the same faith, entitled to the same glory.
2. Christ has abolished the enmity and perpetual strife which was occasioned between Jew and Gentile, upon the account of the observation of the ceremonial law, and the ordinances thereunto belonging: He hath abolished the enmity; that is, the ceremonial law, which made the enmity between them. The ceremonial law was the cause and the continuer of that enmity which was betwixt Jew and Gentile: this is called the law of commandments contained in ordinances: because Almighty God did actually separate the Jews from all the world, by giving them ordinances and commandments, judicial and ceremonial laws, containing many visible and external observances, which forbade them to communicate with the Gentile world.
Now Christ being come in the flesh, all those observances ceased, and those legal ordinances vanished away; all nations become blessed in Christ, and Jews and Gentiles become one church, both alike the people of God, both admitted equally into covenant, and both alike blessed.
Here note, That the moral law, summarily comprised and comprehended in the Ten Commandments, was no part of the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile. Nor did the death of Christ abrogate this law, nor is it at all abolished: but it was the law of ceremonies only, which the sufferings and death of Christ put an end unto; for when he died, they all vanished; as the shadow disappears when the substance is come.
1. Our apostle had declared in the foregoing verses, that one end of Christ's death was, to make peace between Jew and Gentile; here he assures us, a second end was to make peace between God and man, that he might reconcile both Jew and Gentile, thus united, to an offended God. This he did by the sacrifice of himself upon the cross; whereby he did destroy that enmity which was betwixt God and man, by undergoing the punishment of sin, the cause of that enmity.
Learn hence, That in order to our reconciliation with God, and being at peace with him, a price was paid by Christ upon the cross, to satisfy divine justice, and atone divine displeasure.
Observe next, that Christ's having purchased peace, he came and preached peace to both Jews and Gentiles; to the Gentiles, said here to be afar off, and to the Jews, that were nigh.
But how did Christ preach to the Gentiles?
Ans. Though he did not in his own person preach peace to the Gentiles, yet he gave commission to the apostles to preach to them, Matt 28:19-20, and they and their successors, pursuant to such commission, did preach peace unto them, even to them that were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Learn hence, That when the ministers of Christ do come in his name, and by a commission received from him, to preach peace, and offer terms of reconciliation unto lost sinners, it is all one as if Christ himself did come and preach; he expects the same readiness from them in receiving the message, as if it were delivered to them from his own mouth; and will treat the despisers of his ministers, and the contemners of their message, as if the affront were offered immediately to his own person.
Observe, 3. The apostle's argument to prove that the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, were effectually called, by the preaching of the gospel, to partake of peace and reconciliation with God; because they had both equal access and liberty to approach unto God in all holy duties, as unto a Father, by the manuduction of the Spirit: Through him, that is, through Jesus Christ, we, both Jews and Gentiles, have access, that is, liberty of approach, by one and the same Spirit, unto the Father.
Learn hence, That through Jesus Christ, all believers, of what denomination soever, have access to God by the Spirit of grace.
Quest. What doth this access to the Father denote?
Ans. It supposes a distance between God and us, both a natural and a moral distance, as creatures and as sinners: it denotes a propinquity and nearness unto God, in opposition to this distance; and that our approach to God is free and voluntary, friendly and complacential, peculiar and privilegeous, fruitful and advantageous.
Quest. 2. In what respects have believers access to God as to a Father?
Ans. In this life they have access to the Father's heart and love, to the Father's ear and audience, to the Father's care and protection; to his providing care, to his guiding and counseling care, to his comforting and supporting care, but especially to his sanctifying care.
Quest. 3. Through whom have we this access to God?
Ans. Through Jesus Christ, through his mediation and manuduction, we have access to God's heart, to God's ear, to his fatherly care on earth, and to his gracious presence in heaven.
Quest. 4. What influence gives the Holy Spirit unto this access unto the Father?
Ans. It is by his influence that they are at first brought home to the Father: he prepares them for this access unto the Father: he stirs up holy affections, and enkindles holy desires, in them after God, and helps them to make improvement, an holy, fruitful, and advantageous improvement, of all their access unto God.
Our apostle began this chapter with setting before the Ephesians the horror and dread of the heathenish state before converted to Christianity: here he closes the chapter with an account of that glorious and blessed state, which the Christian religion, embraced by them, had translated them into: Now ye are no more strangers, but fellow-citizens, &c.
Where observe, 1. Their present happy condition is set forth both negatively and positively:
negatively, by showing what they were not, neither strangers nor foreigners, but freemen and fellow-citizens, &c. Where it must be remembered, that all the nations of the world, except the Jews, were called strangers to the God of Israel; but the Jews were called propinqui, his neighbours, or near ones: but, says the apostle, there is now no such difference; for the believing Gentiles are equally admitted with the believing Jews to the privileges of the new Jerusalem, and are fellow-citizens with one another; they are no longer aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, but free men.
Observe, 2. The apostle sets forth their happy condition positively, under a three-fold similitude; namely, that of a city, that of an household or family, and that of an edifice or building.
Note, 1. Our apostle compares the Christian church (of which the Ephesians now were members) to a city; and shows, that themselves, as believing Gentiles, had a right to all the privileges and immunities of that city, as well; as the Jews, who accounted themselves the only free members of it. Ye are fellow-citizens with the saints; that is, the patriarchs and prophets, and all other members of the church of the Jews; ye are free denizens, burgesses, and infranchized citizens, with the rest of that holy society; ye are all members of the holy catholic church.
Note, 2. Our apostle compares the Christian church to an household or family: Ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Now, this metaphor intimates a greater degree of nearness to, and communion with, the church, than what the former metaphor did imply, there being a straiter tie of familiarity and friendship between the members of a city.
Whence we learn, That the church of Christ under the gospel, is God's great household or family, in a peculiar manner admitted to an intimate communion with him, in a special way provided and cared for by him; and every sincere Christian becomes a member of this blessed family, and enjoys all the privileges thereof: Ye are all fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
Note, 3. St. Paul proceeds yet farther, and compares the church of Christ to an edifice or stately building: Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, &c. Now this similitude holds forth unto us a still farther degree of nearness to, and communion with, God and his church, than the former. What can be more closely united, and more strictly joined together, than stones in a building? And our apostle calling the church an holy temple, seems to allude to Solomon's temple, which was a type of the Christian church, as the tabernacle was of the Jewish church. The tabernacle was ambulatory and changeable, made of decaying and corruptible materials, and so fitly typified the Jewish dispensation, which was temporary and transient; but the temple was made of durable rich materials, and thereby a proper type of the Christian church, which is called a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
But observe further, How our apostle doth describe this stately edifice, this spiritual building, the Christian church, these several ways:
1. By its foundation which it stands upon, namely, the apostles and prophets; that is, upon the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, not upon their persons: Christ himself being the personal foundation and chief corner-stone.
Learn, That though Christ himself be the builder of, and the chief corner-stone in, his church, yet he employs his ministers now, as he did the prophets and apostles of old, to lay the foundation, and carry on the superstructure, and no one apostle had a privilege in this above another; and therefore for the pope, as St. Peter's successor, to style himself, "the foundation of the Catholic church," is an impudent presumption; for no more is here said of Peter, than is said of all the apostles and prophets.
2. The church as a spiritual building or temple, is here described by the unity and compactness of its parts: in whom all the building fitly framed together; that is, all the members of the church are by faith firmly joined to Christ as the foundation, and to one another by love, and their unity is both their strength and their beauty.
3. This building is described by its worth and perpetual increase, it groweth unto an holy temple. The church groweth two ways, by an addition of new and particular converts, and by an addition of new graces in every particular convert.
Where remark, how this spiritual edifice, the church of Christ, differs from all other buildings; both the whole of it, and all the individual parts of it, are endued with life, a life flowing from Christ the foundation, a life far from a state of perfection, in whom all the building groweth; all a Christian's life and spiritual growth flow from his union and communion with Christ; in him all the building groweth.
4. This building, namely, the Christian church, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, is here described by the end and design of Christ in erecting this growing edifice; namely, to be an holy temple unto God, wherein now (as in the material temple of old) he may manifest his gracious presence, and be perpetually worshipped, glorified, and served. The whole church, or collective body of believers jointly, and each believer severally and apart, are a spiritual and holy temple unto the Lord, in and by whom all spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise are offered up, and all the duties of new and sincere obedience acceptably performed.
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