Ephesians 3

CHAPTER III.

Paul, a prisoner for the testimony of Jesus, declares his

knowledge of what had been a mystery from all ages, that the

Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body with the

Jews, 1-6.

Which doctrine he was made a minister, that he might declare the

unsearchable riches of Christ, and make known to principalities

and powers this eternal purpose of God, 7-12.

He desires them not to be discouraged on account of his

tribulations, 13.

His prayer that they might be filled with all the fulness of

God, 14-19.

His doxology, 20, 21.

NOTES ON CHAP. III.

Verse 1. For this cause] Because he maintained that the

Gentiles were admitted to all the privileges of the Jews, and all

the blessings of the new covenant, without being obliged to submit

to circumcision, the Jews persecuted him, and caused him to be

imprisoned, first at Caesarea, where he was obliged to appeal to

the Roman emperor, in consequence of which he was sent prisoner to

Rome. See Ac 21:21-28, &c.

The prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles] For preaching

the Gospel to the Gentiles, and showing that they were not bound

by the law of Moses, and yet were called to be fellow citizens

with the saints; for this very cause the Jews persecuted him unto

bonds, and conspired his death.

Verse 2. If ye have heard of the dispensation] The compound

particle ειγε, which is commonly translated if indeed, in several

places means since indeed, seeing that, and should be translated

so in this verse, and in several other places of the New

Testament. Seeing ye have heard of the dispensation of God, which

is given me to you-ward: this they had amply learned from the

apostle during his stay at Ephesus, for he had not shunned to

declare unto them the whole counsel of God, Ac 20:27,

and kept nothing back that was profitable to them, Ac 20:20. And

this was certainly among those things that were most profitable,

and most necessary to be known.

By the dispensation of the grace of God we may understand,

either the apostolic office and gifts granted to St. Paul, for the

purpose of preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles, see Ro 1:5;

or the knowledge which God gave him of that gracious and Divine

plan which he had formed for the conversion of the Gentiles. For

the meaning of the word economy, See Clarke on Eph 1:10.

Verse 3. By revelation he made known unto me] Instead of

εγνωρισε, he made known, εγνωρισθη, was made known, is the

reading of ABCD*FG, several others, both the Syriac, Coptic,

Slavonic, Vulgate, and Itala, with Clemens, Cyril, Chrysostom,

Theodoret, Damascenus, and others: it is doubtless the true

reading.

The apostle wishes the Ephesians to understand that it was not

an opinion of his own, or a doctrine which he was taught by

others, or which he had gathered from the ancient prophets; but

one that came to him by immediate revelation from God, as he had

informed them before in a few words, referring to what he had said

Eph 1:9-12.

Verse 4. Whereby, when ye read] When ye refer back to them.

Ye may understand my knowledge] Ye may see what God has given

me to know concerning what has been hitherto a mystery-the calling

of the Gentiles, and the breaking down the middle wall between

them and the Jews, so as to make both one spiritual body, and on

the same conditions.

Verse 5. Which in other ages was not made known] That the

calling of the Gentiles was made known by the prophets in

different ages of the Jewish Church is exceedingly clear; but it

certainly was not made known in that clear and precise manner in

which it was now revealed by the Spirit unto the ministers of the

New Testament: nor was it made known unto them at all, that the

Gentiles should find salvation without coming under the yoke of

the Mosaic law, and that the Jews themselves should be freed from

that yoke of bondage; these were discoveries totally new, and now

revealed for the first time by the Spirit of God.

Verse 6. That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs] This is the

substance of that mystery which had been hidden from all ages, and

which was now made known to the New Testament apostles and

prophets, and more particularly to St. Paul.

His promise in Christ] That the promise made to Abraham

extended to the Gentiles, the apostle has largely proved in his

Epistle to the Romans; and that it was to be fulfilled to them by

and through Christ, he proves there also; and particularly in his

Epistle to the Galatians, see Ga 3:14. And that these blessings

were to be announced in the preaching of the Gospel, and received

on believing it, he every where declares, but more especially in

this epistle.

Verse 7. Whereof I was made a minister] διακονος. A deacon,

a servant acting under and by the direction of the great

Master, Jesus Christ; from whom, by an especial call and

revelation, I received the apostolic gifts and office, and by την

ενεργειαντηςδυναμεωςαυτου, the energy, the in-working of his

power, this Gospel which I preached was made effectual to the

salvation of vast multitudes of Jews and Gentiles.

Verse 8. Less than the least of all saints] ελαχιστοτερω

παντωναγιων. As the design of the apostle was to magnify the

grace of Christ in the salvation of the world, he uses every

precaution to prevent the eyes of the people from being turned to

any thing but Christ crucified; and although he was obliged to

speak of himself as the particular instrument which God had chosen

to bring the Gentile world to the knowledge of the truth, yet he

does it in such a manner as to show that the excellency of the

power was of God, and not of him; and that, highly as he and his

follow apostles were honoured; they had the heavenly treasure in

earthen vessels. To lay himself as low as possible, consistently

with his being in the number of Divinely commissioned men, he

calls himself less than the least; and is obliged to make a new

word, by strangely forming a comparative degree, not from the

positive, which would have been a regular grammatical procedure,

but from the superlative. The adjective ελαχυς signifies little,

ελασσων or ελαττων, less, and ελαχιστος, least. On this

latter, which is the superlative of ελαχυς, little, St. Paul

forms his comparative, ελαχιστοτερος, less than the least, a word

of which it would be vain to attempt a better translation than

that given in our own version. It most strongly marks the

unparalleled humility of the apostle; and the amazing

condescension of God, in favouring him, who had been before a

persecutor and blasphemer, with the knowledge of this glorious

scheme of human redemption, and the power to preach it so

successfully among the Gentiles.

The unsearchable riches of Christ] The word ανεξιχνιαστος, from

α, privative, and εξιχνιαζω, to trace out, from ιχνος, a

step, is exceedingly well chosen here: it refers to the footsteps

of God, the plans he had formed, the dispensations which he had

published, and the innumerable providences which he had combined,

to prepare, mature, and bring to full effect and view his gracious

designs in the salvation of a ruined world, by the incarnation,

passion, death, and resurrection of his Son. There were in these

schemes and providences such riches-such an abundance, such a

variety, as could not be comprehended even by the naturally vast,

and, through the Divine inspiration, unparalleledly capacious mind

of the apostle.

Yet he was to proclaim among the Gentiles these astonishing

wonders and mysteries of grace; and as he proceeds in this great

and glorious work, the Holy Spirit that dwelt in him opens to his

mind more and more of those riches-leads him into those footsteps

of the Almighty which could not be investigated by man nor angel,

so that his preaching and epistles, taken all in their

chronological order, will prove that his views brighten, and his

discoveries become more numerous and more distinct in proportion

as he advances. And had he lived, preached, and written to the

present day, he had not exhausted the subject, nor fully declared

to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ-the endless

depths of wisdom and knowledge treasured up in him, and the

infinity of saving acts and saving power displayed by him.

Verse 9. And to make all men see] καιφωτισαιπαντας. And to

illuminate all; to give information both to Jews and Gentiles; to

afford them a sufficiency of light, so that they might be able

distinctly to discern the great objects exhibited in this Gospel.

What is the fellowship of the mystery] The word κοινωνια,

which we properly translate fellowship, was used among the Greeks

to signify their religious communities; here it may intimate the

association of Jews and Gentiles in one Church or body, and their

agreement in that glorious mystery which was now so fully opened

relative to the salvation of both. But instead of κοινωνια,

fellowship, οικονομια, dispensation or economy, is the

reading of ABCDEFG, and more than fifty others; both the Syriac,

Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Slavonian, Vulgate and Itala, with

the chief of the Greek fathers. Some of the best printed editions

of the Greek text have the same reading, and that in our common

text has very little authority to support it. Dispensation or

economy is far more congenial to the scope of the apostle's

declaration in this place; he wished to show them the economy of

that mystery of bringing Jews and Gentiles to salvation by faith

in Christ Jesus, which God from the beginning of the world had

kept hidden in his own infinite mind, and did not think proper to

reveal even when he projected the creation of the world, which had

respect to the economy of human redemption. And although the

world was made by Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer, yet at that

period this revelation of the power of God, the design of saving

men, whose fall infinite wisdom had foreseen, was not then

revealed. This reading Griesbach has received into the text.

Who created all things by Jesus Christ] Some very judicious

critics are of opinion that this does not refer to the material

creation; and that we should understand the whole as referring to

the formation of all God's dispensations of grace, mercy, and

truth, which have been planned, managed, and executed by Christ,

from the foundation of the world to the present time. But the

words διαιησουχριστου, by Jesus Christ, are wanting in ABCD*FG,

and several others; also in the Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, Coptic,

AEthiopic, Vulgate, and Itala; as also in several of the fathers.

Griesbach has thrown the words out of the text; and Professor

White says, "certissime delenda," they are indisputably spurious.

The text, therefore, should be read: which from the beginning of

the world had been hidden in God who created all things. No

inferiority of Christ can be argued from a clause of whose

spuriousness there is the strongest evidence.

Verse 10. That now unto the principalities and powers in

heavenly places] Who are these principalities and powers? Some

think evil angels are intended, because they are thus denominated,

Eph 6:12.

Others think good angels are meant; for as these heavenly beings

are curious to investigate the wondrous economy of the Gospel,

though they are not its immediate objects, see 1Pe 1:12, it

is quite consistent with the goodness of God to give them that

satisfaction which they require. And in this discovery of the

Gospel plan of salvation, which reconciles things in heaven and

things on earth-both men and angels, these pure spirits are

greatly interested, and their praises to the Divine Being rendered

much more abundant. Others imagine the Jewish rulers and rabbins

are intended, particularly those of them who were converted to

Christianity, and who had now learned from the preaching of the

Gospel what, as Jews, they could never have known. I have had

several opportunities of showing that this sort of phraseology is

frequent among the Jews, and indeed not seldom used in the New

Testament. Dr. Macknight, whose mode of arguing against this

opinion is not well chosen, supposes that "the different orders of

angels in heaven are intended, whose knowledge of God's

dispensations must be as gradual as the dispensations themselves;

consequently their knowledge of the manifold wisdom of God must

have been greatly increased by the constitution of the Christian

Church." Of this there can be no doubt, whether the terms in the

text refer to them or not.

By the Church] That is, by the Christians and by the wonderful

things done in the Church; and by the apostles, who were its

pastors.

The manifold wisdom of God] ηπολυποικιλοςσοφια. That

multifarious and greatly diversified wisdom of God; laying great

and infinite plans, and accomplishing them by endless means,

through the whole lapse of ages; making every occurrence

subservient to the purposes of his infinite mercy and goodness.

God's gracious design to save a lost world by Jesus Christ, could

not be defeated by any cunning skill or malice of man or devils:

whatever hinderances are thrown in the way, his wisdom and power

can remove; and his infinite wisdom can never want ways or means

to effect its gracious designs.

Verse 11. According to the eternal purpose] καταπροθεσιντων

αιωνων. According to the purpose concerning the periods. This

seems to refer to the complete round of the Jewish system, and to

that of the Gospel. I have often observed, that though the proper

grammatical meaning of the word is ever-during or endless

duration, yet it is often applied to those systems, periods,

governments, &c., which have a complete duration, taking in the

whole of them, from their commencement to their termination,

leaving nothing of their duration unembraced. So, here, God

purposed that the Jewish dispensation should commence at such a

time, and terminate at such a time; that the Gospel dispensation

should commence when the Jewish ended, and terminate only with

life itself; and that the results of both should be endless. This

is probably what is meant by the above phrase.

Which he purposed in Christ Jesus] ηνεποιησεν. Which he made

or constituted in or for Christ Jesus. The manifestation of

Christ, and the glory which should follow, were the grand objects

which God kept in view in all his dispensations.

Verse 12. In whom we have boldness] By whom we, Gentiles, have

τηνπαρρησιαν, this liberty of speech; so that we may say any

thing by prayer and supplication, and τηνπροσαγωγην, this

introduction, into the Divine presence by faith in Christ. It is

only in his name we can pray to God, and it is only by him that

we can come to God; none can give us an introduction but Christ

Jesus, and it is only for his sake that God will either hear or

save us. It is on the ground of such scriptures as these that we

conclude all our prayers in the name, and for the sake, of Jesus

Christ our Lord.

Verse 13. I desire that ye faint not] In those primitive

times, when there was much persecution, people were in continual

danger of falling away from the faith who were not well grounded

in it. This the apostle deprecates, and advances a strong reason

why they should be firm: "I suffer my present imprisonment on

account of demonstrating your privileges, of which the Jews are

envious: I bear my afflictions patiently, knowing that what I have

advanced is of God, and thus I give ample proof of the sincerity

of my own conviction. The sufferings, therefore, of your apostles

are honourable to you and to your cause; and far from being any

cause why you should faint, or draw back like cowards, in the day

of distress, they should be an additional argument to induce you

to persevere."

Verse 14. For this cause I bow my knees] That you may not

faint, but persevere, I frequently pray to God, who is our God and

the Father of our Lord Jesus. Some very ancient and excellent

MSS. and versions omit the words τουκυριουημωνιησουχριστου, of

our Lord Jesus Christ. And in them the passage reads: I bow my

knees unto the Father. The apostle prays to God the Father, that

they may not faint; and he bows his knees in this praying. What

can any man think of himself, who, in his addresses to God, can

either sit on his seat or stand in the presence of the Maker and

Judge of all men? Would they sit while addressing any person of

ordinary respectability? If they did so they would be reckoned

very rude indeed. Would they sit in the presence of the king of

their own land? They would not be permitted so to do. Is God

then to be treated with less respect than a fellow mortal? Paul

kneeled in praying, Ac 20:36; 21:5.

Stephen kneeled when he was stoned, Ac 7:60.

And Peter kneeled when he raised Tabitha, Ac 9:40.

Many parts of this prayer bear a strict resemblance to that

offered up by Solomon, 2Ch 6:1, &c., when dedicating the temple:

He kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of

Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven; 2Ch 6:13. The

apostle was now dedicating the Christian Church, that then was and

that ever should be, to God; and praying for those blessings which

should ever rest on and distinguish it; and he kneels down after

the example of Solomon, and invokes him to whom the first temple

was dedicated, and who had made it a type of the Gospel Church.

Verse 15. Of whom the whole family] Believers in the Lord

Jesus Christ on earth, the spirits of just men made perfect in a

separate state, and all the holy angels in heaven, make but one

family, of which God is the Father and Head. St. Paul does not

say, of whom the families, as if each order formed a distinct

household; but he says family, because they are all one, and of

one. And all this family is named-derives its origin and

being, from God, as children derive their name from him who is the

father of the family: holy persons in heaven and earth derive

their being and their holiness from God, and therefore his name is

called upon them. Christ gives the name of Christians to all

the real members of his Church upon earth; and to all the spirits

of just men (saved since his advent, and through his blood) in

heaven. They are all the sons and daughters of God Almighty.

Verse 16. That he would grant you] This prayer of the apostle

is one of the most grand and sublime in the whole oracles of God.

The riches of the grace of the Gospel, and the extent to which the

soul of man may be saved here below, are most emphatically pointed

out here. Every word seems to have come immediately from heaven;

labouring to convey ideas of infinite importance to mankind. No

paraphrase can do it justice, and few commentators seem to have

entered into its spirit; perhaps deterred by its unparalleled

sublimity. I shall only attempt a few observations upon the

terms, to show their force and meaning; and leave all the rest to

that Spirit by which these most important words were dictated. In

the mean time referring the reader to the discourse lately

published on this prayer of the apostle, entitled, The Family of

God and its Privileges.

That he would grant you-You can expect nothing from him but as a

free gift through Christ Jesus; let this be a ruling sentiment of

your hearts when you pray to God.

According to the riches of his glory] According to the measure

of his own eternal fulness; God's infinite mercy and goodness

being the measure according to which we are to be saved. In

giving alms it is a maxim that every one should act according to

his ability. It would be a disgrace to a king or a noble-man to

give no more than a tradesman or a peasant. God acts up to the

dignity of his infinite perfections; he gives according to the

riches of his glory.

To be strengthened with might] Ye have many enemies, cunning

and strong; many trials, too great for your natural strength; many

temptations, which no human power is able successfully to resist;

many duties to perform, which cannot be accomplished by the

strength of man; therefore you need Divine strength; ye must have

might; and ye must be strengthened every where, and every way

fortified by that might; mightily and most effectually

strengthened.

By his Spirit] By the sovereign energy of the Holy Ghost. This

fountain of spiritual energy can alone supply the spiritual

strength which is necessary for this spiritual work and conflict.

In the inner man] In the soul. Every man is a compound being;

he has a body and a soul. The outward man is that alone which is

seen and considered by men; the inward man is that which stands

particularly in reference to God and eternity. The outward man is

strengthened by earthly food, &c.; the inward man, by spiritual

and heavenly influences. Knowledge, love, peace, and holiness,

are the food of the inward man; or rather Jesus Christ, that bread

of life which came down from heaven: he that eateth this bread

shall live and be strengthened by it. The soul must be as truly

fed and nourished by Divine food as the body by natural food.

Verse 17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith] In

this as well as in many other passages, and particularly that in

Eph 2:21, (where see the note,)

the apostle compares the body or Church of true believers to a

temple, which, like that of Solomon, is built up to be a

habitation of God through the Spirit. Here, as Solomon did at the

dedication of the temple at Jerusalem, 2Ch 6:1, &c., Paul,

having considered the Church at Ephesus completely formed, as to

every external thing, prays that God may come down and dwell in

it. And as there could be no indwelling of God but by Christ, and

no indwelling of Christ but by faith, he prays that they may have

such faith in Christ, as shall keep them in constant possession of

his love and presence. God, at the beginning, formed man to be

his temple, and while in a state of purity he inhabited this

temple; when the temple became defiled, God left it. In the order

of his eternal mercy, Christ, the repairer of the breach, comes to

purify the temple, that it may again become a fit habitation for

the blessed God. This is what the apostle points out to the

believing Ephesians, in praying that Christ κατοικησαι, might

intensely and constantly dwell in their hearts by faith: for the

man's heart, which is not God's house, must be a hold of every

foul and unclean spirit; as Satan and his angels will endeavour to

fill what God does not.

That ye, being rooted and grounded in love] Here is a double

metaphor; one taken from agriculture, the other, from

architecture. As trees, they are to be rooted in love-this is

the soil in which their souls are to grow; into the infinite love

of God their souls by faith are to strike their roots, and from

this love derive all that nourishment which is essential for their

full growth, till they have the mind in them that was in Jesus,

or, as it is afterwards said, till they are filled with all the

fulness of God. As a building, their foundation is to be laid in

this love. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten

Son, &c. Here is the ground on which alone the soul, and all its

hopes and expectations, can be safely founded. This is a

foundation that cannot be shaken; and it is from this alone that

the doctrine of redemption flows to man, and from this alone has

the soul its form and comeliness. IN this, as its proper soil, it

grows. ON this, as its only foundation, it rests.

Verse 18. May be able to comprehend with all saints] ινα

εξισχυσητεκαταλαβεσθαι. These words are so exceedingly nervous

and full of meaning, that it is almost impossible to translate

them. The first word, εξισχυσητε, from εξ, intensive, and

ισχυω, to be strong, signifies that they might be thoroughly able,

by having been strengthened with might, by God's power. The

second word καταλαβεσθαι, from κατα, intensive, and λαμβανω,

to take, catch, or seize on, may be translated, that ye may fully

catch, take in, and comprehend this wonderful mystery of God. The

mind must be rendered apt, and the soul invigorated, to take in

and comprehend these mysteries.

What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height] Here

the apostle still keeps up the metaphor, comparing the Church of

God to a building; and as, in order to rear a proper building,

formed on scientific principles, a ground plan and specification

must be previously made, according to which the building is to be

constructed, the apostle refers to this; for this must be

thoroughly understood, without which the building could not be

formed. They were to be builded up a heavenly house, a habitation

of God through the Spirit; and this must have its latitude or

breadth, its longitude or length, its altitude or height,

and its profundity or depth.

It is supposed by some that the apostle is here alluding to the

famous temple of Diana at Ephesus, which, as I have already had

occasion to remark, was reputed one of the wonders of the world,

being in length 425 feet, in breadth 220; it was supported by 127

pillars, each 60 feet high; was builded at the expense of all

Asia; and was 220 years in being completed. I cannot, however,

allow of this allusion while the apostle had a nobler model at

hand, and one every way more worthy of being brought into the

comparison. The temple at Jerusalem was that alone which he had

in view; that alone could be fitly compared here; for that was

built to be a habitation of God; that was his house, and that the

place of his rest: so the Christian temple, and the believing

heart, are to be the constant, the endless residence of God; and

how august must that edifice be in which the eternal Trinity

dwells!

But what can the apostle mean by the breadth, length, depth, and

height, of the love of God? Imagination can scarcely frame any

satisfactory answer to this question. It takes in the eternity of

God. GOD is LOVE; and in that, an infinity of breadth, length,

depth, and height, is included; or rather all breadth, length,

depth, and height, are lost in this immensity. It comprehends

all that is above, all that is below, all that is past, and all

that is to come. In reference to human beings, the love of God,

in its BREADTH, is a girdle that encompasses the globe; its LENGTH

reaches from the eternal purpose of the mission of Christ, to the

eternity of blessedness which is to be spent in his ineffable

glories; its DEPTH reaches to the lowest fallen of the sons of

Adam, and to the deepest depravity of the human heart; and its

HEIGHT to the infinite dignities of the throne of Christ. He that

overcometh will I give to sit dawn with me upon my throne, as I

have overcome and sat down with the Father upon his throne. Thus

we see that the Father, the Son, and all true believers in him,

are to be seated on the same throne! This is the height of the

love of God, and the height to which that love raises the souls

that believe in Christ Jesus!

Verse 19. To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge]

It is only by the love of Christ that we can know the love of God:

the love of God to man induced him to give Christ for his

redemption; Christ's love to man induced him to give his life's

blood for his salvation. The gift of Christ to man is the measure

of God's love; the death of Christ for man is the measure of

Christ's love. God so loved the world, &c. Christ loved us, and

gave himself for us.

But how can the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, be

known? Many have laboured to reconcile this seeming

contradiction. If we take the verb γνωναι in a sense in which it

is frequently used in the New Testament, to approve, acknowledge,

or acknowledge with approbation, and γνωσις to signify

comprehension, then the difficulty will be partly removed: "That

ye may acknowledge, approve, and publicly acknowledge, that love

of God which surpasseth knowledge." We can acknowledge and

approve of that which surpasses our comprehension. We cannot

comprehend GOD; yet we can know that he is; approve of, love,

adore, and serve him. In like manner, though we cannot

comprehend, the immensity of the love of Christ, yet we know that

he has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and

we approve of, and acknowledge, him as our only Lord and Saviour.

In this sense we may be said to know the love of Christ that

passeth knowledge.

But it is more likely that the word γνωσις, which we translate

knowledge, signifies here science in general, and particularly

that science of which the rabbins boasted, and that in which the

Greeks greatly exulted. The former professed to have the key of

knowledge; the secret of all Divine mysteries; the latter

considered their philosophers, and their systems of philosophy,

superior to every thing that had ever been known among men, and

reputed on this account all other nations as barbarians. When the

apostle prays that they may know the love of Christ which passeth

knowledge, he may refer to all the boasted knowledge of the Jewish

doctors, and to all the greatly extolled science of the Greek

philosophers. To know the love of Christ, infinitely surpasseth

all other science. This gives a clear and satisfactory sense.

That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.] Among all

the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest. To be

FILLED with God is a great thing; to be filled with the FULNESS of

God is still greater; but to be filled with ALL the fulness of

God, παντοπληρωματουθεου, utterly bewilders the sense and

confounds the understanding.

Most people, in quoting these words, endeavour to correct or

explain the apostle, by adding the word communicable; but this is

as idle as it is useless and impertinent. The apostle means what

he says, and would be understood in his own meaning. By the

fulness of God, we are to understand all those gifts and graces

which he has promised to bestow on man, and which he dispenses to

the Church. To be filled with all the fulness of God, is to have

the whole soul filled with meekness, gentleness, goodness, love,

justice, holiness, mercy, and truth. And as what God fills,

neither sin nor Satan can fill; consequently, it implies that the

soul shall be emptied of sin, that sin shall neither have dominion

over it, nor a being in it. It is impossible for us to understand

these words in a lower sense than this. But how much more they

imply, (for more they do imply,) I cannot tell. As there is no

end to the merits of Christ, no bounds to the mercy and love of

God, no limits to the improvability of the human soul, so there

can be no bounds set to the saving influence which God will

dispense to the heart of every believer. We may ask, and we shall

receive, and our joy shall be full.

Verse 20. Now unto him] Having finished his short, but most

wonderfully comprehensive and energetic prayer, the apostle brings

in his doxology, giving praise to Him from whom all blessings

come, and to whom all thanks are due.

That is able to do exceeding abundantly] It is impossible to

express the full meaning of these words, God is omnipotent,

therefore he is able to do all things, and able to do υπερεκ

περισσου, superabundantly above the greatest abundance. And who

can doubt this, who has any rational or Scriptural views of his

power or his love?

All that we ask or think] We can ask every good of which we

have heard, every good which God has promised in his word; and we

can think of, or imagine, goods and blessings beyond all that we

have either read of or seen: yea, we can imagine good things to

which it is impossible for us to give a name; we can go beyond the

limits of all human descriptions; we can imagine more than even

God has specified in his word; and can feel no bounds to our

imagination of good, but impossibility and eternity: and after

all, God is able to do more for us than we can ask or think; and

his ability here is so necessarily connected with his willingness,

that the one indisputably implies the other; for, of what

consequence would it be to tell the Church of God that he had

power to do so and so, if there were not implied an assurance that

he will do what his power can, and what the soul of man needs to

have done?

According to the power that worketh in us] All that he can do,

and all that he has promised to do, will be done according to what

he has done, by that power of the holy Ghost τηνενεργουμενην,

which worketh strongly in us-acts with energy in our hearts,

expelling evil, purifying and refining the affections and desires,

and implanting good.

Verse 21. Unto him] Thus possessed of power and goodness, be

glory in the Church-be unceasing praises ascribed in all the

assemblies of the people of God, wherever these glad tidings are

preached, and wherever this glorious doctrine shall be credited.

By Christ Jesus] Through whom, and for whom, all these miracles

of mercy and power are wrought.

Throughout all ages] ειςπασαςταςγενεας. Through all

succeeding generations-while the race of human beings continues to

exist on the face of the earth.

World without end.] τουαιωνοςτωναιωνων. Throughout

eternity-in the coming world as well as in this. The song of

praise, begun upon earth, and protracted through all the

generations of men, shall be continued in heaven, by all that are

redeemed from the earth, where eras, limits, and periods are no

more for ever.

Amen.] So be it. So let it be! and so it will be; for all the

counsels of God are faithfulness and truth; and not one jot or

tittle of his promise has failed, from the foundation of the world

to the present day; nor can fail, till mortality is swallowed up

of life.

Therefore, to the Father, Son, and holy Ghost, be glory,

dominion, power, and thanksgiving, now, henceforth, and for

ever.-Amen and Amen.

1. FOR the great importance of the matter contained in this

chapter, and the sublimity of the language and conceptions, there

is no portion of the New Testament equal to this. The apostle was

now shut up in prison, but the word of the Lord was not bound; and

the kingdom of God seems to have been opened to him in a most

astonishing manner. There seems to have been exhibited to him a

plan of the Divine counsels and conduct relative to the salvation

of man, before and from the foundation of the world to the end of

time; and while, with the eye of his mind, he contemplates this

plan, he describes it in language at once the most elevated that

can be conceived, and every where dignified and appropriate to the

subject; so that he may with safety be compared with the finest of

the Grecian writers. In the notes I have already observed how

hard it is to give any literal translation of the many compound

epithets which the apostle uses. Indeed his own nervous language

seems to bend and tremble under the weight of the Divine ideas

which it endeavours to express. This is most observable in the

prayer and doxology which are contained in Eph 3:14-21. A

passage in Thucydides, lib. vii. cap. lxxxvii, in fine, where he

gives an account of the total overthrow of the Athenian general,

Nicias, and his whole army, by the Sicilians, has been compared

with this of the apostle; it is truly a grand piece, and no reader

can be displeased with its introduction here: ξυνεβητεεργον

τουτοελληνικοντωνκαθατονπολεμοντονδεμεγιστονγενεσθαικαι

τοιςτεκρατησασιλαμπροτατονκαιτοιςδιαφθαρεισιδυστυχεστατον.

καταπανταγαρπαντωςνικηθεντεςκαιουδενολιγονεςουδεν

κακοπαθησαντεςπανωλεθριαδητολεγομενονκαιπεζοςκαινηες

καιουδενοτιουκαπωλετο. καιολιγοιαποπολλωνεποικου

απενοστησαν. "This was the greatest discomfiture which the Greeks

sustained during the whole war, and was as brilliant to the

conquerors as it was calamitous to the vanquished. In every

respect they were totally defeated; and they suffered no small

evil in every particular: the destruction was universal, both of

army and navy; there was nothing that did not perish; and scarcely

any, out of vast multitudes, returned to their own homes.

The learned may compare the two passages; and while due credit

is given to the splendid Greek historian, no critic will deny the

palm to the inspired writer.

2. With such portions of the word of God before us, how is it

that we can he said conscientiously to credit the doctrines of

Christianity, and live satisfied with such slender attainments in

the divine life? Can any man that pleads for the necessary and

degrading continuance of indwelling sin, believe what the apostle

has written? Can we, who profess to believe it, be excusable, and

live under the influence of any temper or passion that does not

belong to the mind of Christ? Will it be said in answer, that

"this is only a prayer of the apostle, and contains his wish from

the overflowings of his heart for the spiritual prosperity of the

Ephesians?" Was the apostle inspired or not when he penned this

prayer? If he were not inspired, the prayer makes no part of

Divine revelation; if he were inspired, every petition is

tantamount to a positive promise; for what God inspires the heart

to pray for, that God purposes to bestow. Then it is his will

that all these blessings should be enjoyed by his true followers,

that Christ should inhabit their hearts, and that they should be

filled with all the fulness of God; yea, and that God should do

for them more abundantly than they can ask or think. This

necessarily implies that they should be saved from all sin, inward

and outward, in this life; that the thoughts of their hearts

should be cleansed by the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, that

they might perfectly love him, and worthily magnify his holy name.

As sin is the cause of the ruin of mankind, the Gospel system,

which is its cure, is called good news, or glad tidings; and it

is good news because it proclaims him who saves his people from

their sins. It would be dishonourable to the grace of Christ to

suppose that sin had made wounds which that could not heal.

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