Ephesians 4:18
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
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(18) Having the understanding darkened.—Of this vanity the first result noted is the intellectual. They are “darkened in the understanding,” and so, “by the ignorance in them alienated from the life of God.” The phrase “the life of God” is unique. It may, however, be interpreted by a similar phrase, the “righteousness of God” (Romans 1:7), i.e., the righteousness given by God. What the life given by God is, we know by our Lord’s own words (John 17:3), “This is the life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” So far as the understanding is concerned, this alienation signifies the loss of the central light of Truth in God, and with it the loss, partial or complete, of the vision of other truths in their right proportion and harmony.

But the second result is moral. St. Paul attributes the alienation from God, or (possibly, though less probably) “the ignorance which is in them,” to the hardness of their heart—for the marginal reading is correct; the word used signifies, almost technically, “callousness” and insensibility. To make his meaning clearer still he adds, “who (or, inasmuch as they) being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness.” There is precisely a similar current of thought (noting, however, the characteristic difference referred to above) in Romans 1:24-32, where St. Paul draws out, as consequences of the same vanity, first lusts of uncleanness, next unnatural sin, and at last breaks out into a fearful enumeration of the signs of the reprobate mind. On this side, therefore, “the alienation from the life of God” is the loss of the grace by which He dwells in the soul, and by indwelling gives it the moral and spiritual life.

4:17-24 The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.Having the understanding darkened - That is, because they were alienated from the true God, and particularly because of "the blindness of their hearts." The apostle does not say that this was a "judicial" darkening of the understanding; or that they might not have perceived the truth; or that they had no ability to understand it. He speaks of a simple and well-known fact - a fact that is seen now as well as then that the understanding becomes darkened by indulgence in sin. A man who is intemperate, has no just views of the government of the appetites. A man who is unchaste, has no perception of the loveliness of purity. A man who is avaricious or covetous, has no just views of the beauty of benevolence. A man who indulges in low vices, will weaken his mental powers, and render himself incapable of intellectual effort. Indulgence in vice destroys the intellect as well as the body, and unfits a man to appreciate the truth of a proposition in morals, or in mathematics, or the beauty of a poem, as well as the truth and beauty of religion.

Nothing is more obvious than that indulgence in sin weakens the mental powers, and renders them unfit for high intellectual effort. This is seen all over the pagan world now - in the stolid, stupid mind; the perverted moral sense; the incapacity for profound or protracted mental effort, as really as it was among the pagans to whom Paul preached. The missionary who goes among the pagan has almost to create an "intellect" as well as a "conscience," before the gospel will make an impression. It is seen, too, in all the intellect of the bar, the senate, the pulpit, and the medical profession, that is ruined by intemperance, and in the intellect of multitudes of young men wasted by licentiousness and drunkenness. I know that under the influence of ambition and stimulating drinks, the intellect may seem to put forth unnatural efforts, and to glow with an intensity nowhere else seen. But it "soon burns out" - and the wastes of such an intellect become soon like the hardened scoriae of the volcano, or the cinders of the over-heated furnace. Learn hence, that if a man wishes to be blessed with a clear understanding, he should he a "good man." He who wishes a mind well balanced and clear, should fear and love God; and had Christianity done no other good on earth than to elevate the "intellect" of mankind, it would have been the richest blessing which has ever been vouchsafed to the race. It follows, too, that as man has debased his "understanding" by sin, it is needful to make an exertion to elevate it again: and hence a large part of the efforts to save people must consist in patient "instruction." Hence, the necessity of schools at missionary stations.

Being alienated - see the notes on Ephesians 2:12.

From the life of God - From a life "like" that of God, or a life of which he is the source and author. The meaning is, that they lived a life which was "unlike" God, or which he could not approve. Of the truth of this in regard to the pagan everywhere, there can be no doubt; see the notes on Romans 1.

Through the ignorance that is in them - The ignorance of the true God, and of what constituted virtue; compare notes on Romans 1:20-23.

Because of the blindness of their heart - Margin, "hardness." Hardness is a better word. It is a better translation of the Greek; and it better accords with the design of the apostle. Here the reason is stated why they lived and acted as they did, and why the "understanding" was blinded. It is not that God has enfeebled the human intellect by a judicial sentence on account of the sin of Adam, and made it incapable of perceiving I the truth. It is not that there is any I deficiency or incapacity of natural powers. It is not that the truths of religion are so exalted that man has no natural ability to understand them, for they may be as well understood as any other truth; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 1:14. The simple reason is, "the hardness or the heart." That is the solution given by an inspired apostle, and that is enough. A man who has a blind and hard heart sees no beauty in truth, and feels not its force, and is insensible to all its appeals. Learn, then:

(1) That people are to blame for the blindness of their understanding. Whatever proceeds from a "wicked heart" they are responsible for. But for mere "inferiority of intellect" they would not be to blame.

(2) they are under obligation to repent and love God. If it was required of them to enlarge their intellects, or create additional faculties of mind, they could not be bound to do it. But where the whole thing required is to have a "better heart," they may be held responsible.

(3) the way to elevate the understandings of mankind is to purify the heart. The approach must be made through the affections. Let people "feel" right toward God, and they will soon "think" right; let the heart be pure, and the understanding will be clear.

(Doubtless there is a reciprocal influence between the dark mind and depraved heart. The one acts on the other. Admitting that the understanding is affected "first," through the will or heart, and that it is a bad heart which makes a spiritually dark mind, still the fact remains the same, that "in consequence of our union with Adam, in consequence of the fall," all our faculties, understanding, will, affections, have been corrupted. See the supplementary notes, Romans 5)

18. More literally, "Being darkened in their understanding," that is, their intelligence, or perceptions (compare Eph 5:8; Ac 26:18; 1Th 5:4, 5).

alienated—This and "darkened," imply that before the fall they (in the person of their first father) had been partakers of life and light: and that they had revolted from the primitive revelation (compare Eph 2:12).

life of God—that life whereby God lives in His own people: as He was the life and light in Adam before the irruption of death and darkness into human nature; and as He is the life in the regenerate (Ga 2:20). "Spiritual life in believers is kindled from the life itself of God" [Bengel].

through—rather as Greek, "on account of the ignorance," namely, of God. Wilful ignorance in the first instance, their fathers not "choosing to retain God in their knowledge." This is the beginning point of their misery (Ac 17:30; Ro 1:21, 23, 28; 1Pe 1:14).

because of—"on account of."

blindness—Greek, "hardness," literally, the hardening of the skin so as not to be sensible of touch. Hence a soul's callousness to feeling (Mr 3:5). Where there is spiritual "life" ("the life of God") there is feeling; where there is not, there is "hardness."

Having the understanding; the mind as reasoning and discoursing, and so their ratiocinations and discourses themselves.

Darkened; as to spiritual things.

Being alienated from the life of God; not only strangers to it, (for so are those creatures which are not capable of it), but estranged from it; implying, that in Adam originally they were not so.

The life of God; a spiritual life; that life which God commands, and approves, and whereby God lives in believers, and they live in him, Galatians 2:19,20; and that both as to the principle of life, and the operations of it.

Through the ignorance that is in them; that ignorance which is naturally in them is the cause of their alienation from the life of God, which begins in light and knowledge.

Because of the blindness of their heart; or rather hardness: the Greek word signifies a callum or brawniness in the flesh, which is usual in the hands of labourers. Either this is set down as another cause of their estrangement from the life of God, or as the cause of their ignorance, which, though in part it be natural to them, yet is increased to further degrees by their own hardness and obstinacy, shutting their eyes voluntarily against the light.

Having the understanding darkened,.... Not that the natural faculty of the understanding is lost in men, nor the understanding in things natural and civil, and which is quick enough, especially in things that are evil; but in things spiritual it is very dark and ignorant, as about the nature and perfections of God, his holiness and righteousness; about sin and the consequences of it; about Christ, his person, office, and work, and salvation by him; about the Spirit, and his work of grace upon the soul; and about the Scripture, and the doctrines contained in it; and so it came to be by sin: the understanding of man was at first filled both with natural and divine knowledge; but man was not content with this, and being ambitious of more, even of being as God, lost what he had; for on account of his sin he was banished from the divine presence, which brought not only a darkness upon him, but upon all his posterity; and which is increased by personal iniquity, and oftentimes by Satan the god of this world, who blinds the minds of men; and sometimes men are given up in just judgment by God, to a judicial blindness and hardness of heart; and which issues in utter darkness, in blackness of darkness for evermore:

being alienated from the life of God; not that which God lives in himself, but that which he lives in his people; nor that natural life which men receive from him, but a spiritual life, a life of grace, faith and holiness; and which may be called the life of God, because it is infused by the Spirit of God, and the word of God is the means of it, and it is supported and secured by the power of God, and is according to the will of God, and is directed to his glory: now wicked and unconverted men are alienated from this life; they are estranged from God the fountain of it; and go astray from the law, the rule of an holy life; and are entirely destitute of a principle of life, from whence men can only act and are utterly unacquainted with the pleasures and sweetness of the life of faith and holiness; nor do they approve of such a life, but have the utmost aversion to it:

through the ignorance that is in them; every unregenerate man is an ignorant man, and especially the Gentiles were very ignorant of God, and of divine things; ignorance is natural to men, it comes by sin, and is itself sinful, and is sometimes the punishment of sin, and also the cause of it, as here of alienation from the life of God; for where is ignorance of God, there can be no desire after him, no communion with him, no faith in him, had dependence on him; no true worship of him, or living according to his will, and to his glory: and this ignorance is,

because of the blindness of their hearts, or "the hardness of it"; there is a natural hardness of the heart, the heart is naturally stony, and so it remains till grace takes away the stony heart, and gives an heart of flesh; it is insensible and inflexible, and not susceptive of any impression; and there is a voluntary hardness of it, men willingly harden themselves against the Lord, and make their hearts like an adamant stone, all sin is of an hardening nature; and there is a judicial hardness, which God gives up men unto; and when and where this is the case, in either sense, it is no wonder men should be so ignorant of God, and so alienated from the life of him: , "blindness of heart" (c), is a Rabbinical phrase.

(c) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 105. 1.

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the {a} life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

(a) By which God lives in them.

Ephesians 4:18 exhibits the ground of the fact, that the Gentiles walk ἐν ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν, which ground is twofold according to the twofold power belonging to the νοῦς, the intelligent and the practical. To the former ἐσκοτωμένοι relates (see the critical remarks), to the latter ἀπηλλ. τ. ζωῆς τ. Θεοῦ: since they are darkened (comp. Joseph. Antt. ix. 4. 3; the opposite: φωτίζειν τὴν διάνοιαν, viii. 5. 3) in respect of their exercise of thinking and willing (διανοίᾳ, comp. Luke 1:51; Colossians 1:21; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 John 5:20); estranged from the life of God.

ἐσκοτ.… ὄντες is to be taken together (Clem. Al. Protrep. ix. p. 69, Potter; Theodoret, Bengel, Knapp, Lachmann, Harless, de Wette), since, if ὄντες ἀπηλλοτρ. are joined (Beza and many, including Rückert, Meier, Matthies, Scholz), the logical and formal parallelism is disturbed, inasmuch as then ἔσκοτ. τῇ διανοίᾳ would be merely predicate and ὄντες ἀπηλλοτρ. specifying the reason (subordinate to the former), and the emphatic prefixing of the two perfect participles, as brought into prominence by our punctuation, would go for nothing. And that the second clause does not specify the reason, why the darkening has come over the minds of the Gentiles (in opposition to Rückert), is clear from the following διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν κ.τ.λ., wherein, conversely, the ignorance is indicated as the cause of the estrangement from God. Rückert, moreover, thinks that, according to our punctuation, ὄντες would stand before τῇ διανοίᾳ; but this is groundless, since ἐσκοτ. τῇ διανοίᾳ is conceived of together. Comp. Herod. i. 35: οὐ καθαρὸς χεῖρας ἐών, Xen. Ages. xi. 10: πραότατος φίλοις ὤν.

ἀπηλλοτρ.] See on Ephesians 2:12, and, concerning the constructio κατὰ σύνεσιν, Buttmann, neut. Gram. pp. 114, 242 [E. T. 281].

τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ] from the life of God, does not admit of any explanation, according to which ζωή would be life-walk, which it never means in the N.T., not even in 2 Peter 1:3.[232] Hence not: the life pleasing to God (Michaelis, Zachariae, Koppe, Morus, and others; comp. Theodore, Theophylact, Grotius, and Flatt), but, as Luther aptly renders: “the life, which is from God.” The genitive is genitive originis (comp. δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, Romans 1:17, and see Winer, p. 167 f. [E. T. 233]), and ζωή is the counterpart of θάνατος, so that it is to be understood as: “tota vita spiritualis, quae in hoc seculo per fidem et justitiam inchoatur et in futura beatitudine perficitur, quae tota peculiariter vita Dei est, quatenus a Deo per gratiam datur,” Estius. Comp. Calvin and Cajetanus. It is at all events the life of Christian regeneration, which is wrought by God in believers through the Spirit (Romans 8:2);[233] while the Gentiles are by their heathen nature alien to this divine life. This in opposition to Harless, who understands it as the estrangement from the life and light of the λόγος in the world (John 1:3). Paul in fact is speaking of the Gentiles of that time (not of those who have lived in the time before Christ), in their contrast to the Christians (Ephesians 4:17) as persons who were partakers of divine life through the παλιγγενεσία (comp. Ephesians 2:5; Romans 6:4). Various elements are mixed up by Beza: “vitam illam, qua Deus vivit in suis quamque praecipit et approbat;” and Olshausen: “the life, which God Himself is and has, and which pertains to the creature so long as it remains in fellowship with God.”

διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιανΚΑΡΔΊΑς ΑὐΤῶΝ] on account of, etc.; the cause of this estrangement of the Gentiles from the divine life is the ignorance which is in them through hardening of heart, consequently due to their own fault. διὰ τ. πώρ. τ. κ. attaches itself to ΤῊΝ ΟὖΣΑΝ ἘΝ ΑὐΤΟῖς, and is consequently subordinated to the preceding ΔΙᾺ Τ. ἌΓΝΟΙΑΝ Τ. ΟὖΣ. ἘΝ ΑὐΤ. Usually διὰδιά are regarded as co-ordinate elements; and indeed, according to Harless and Olshausen, who are followed by de Wette, this twofold specification of reason has reference not merely to ἀπηλλοτρ. τ. ζ. τ. Θ., but also to ἘΣΚΟΤ. Τῇ ΔΙΑΝΟΊᾼ ὌΝΤΕς, in which case Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Schenkel (comp. Grotius and Bengel) assume that ΔΙᾺ ΤῊΝ ἌΓΝΟΙΑΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. corresponds to ἘΣΚΟΤ. Κ.Τ.Λ., and then ΔΙᾺ ΤῊΝ ΠΏΡΩΣΙΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. to ἈΠΗΛΛΟΤΡ. Τ. Ζ. Τ. Θ. The ἌΓΝΟΙΑ, however, cannot be the cause, but only the consequence of ἐσκοτ. τῇ διανοίᾳ, since ἌΓΝΟΙΑ (used by Paul only here, but ἈΓΝΟΕῖΝ occurs frequently) is not dulness of the higher faculty of cognition (Rückert), but nothing else than ignorance (Acts 3:17; Acts 17:30; 1 Peter 1:14). The Gentiles were not darkened on account of their ignorance, seeing that in fact ignorance is not inaccessible to the light, as the example of all converted Gentiles shows; but their being estranged from the life of God was occasioned by their ignorance, and, indeed, by their ignorance for which they were to blame on account of hardening of heart. Accordingly, the commas after Θεοῦ and ΑὐΤΟῖς are to be deleted. Meier is quite wrong in holding that the ignorant are the Gentiles, and the hardened the Jews. Paul speaks only of the Gentiles.

τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς] not: quae iis innata est, nor yet said in contrast to external occasions (Harless), which is not at all implied in the context, but: because Paul wished to annex the cause of the ἄγνοια, he has not put ΔΙᾺ ΤῊΝ ἌΓΝΟΙΑΝ ΑὐΤῶΝ, but, in order to procure the means of annexation, has employed the participial expression paraphrasing the ΑὐΤῶΝ: ΤῊΝ ΟὖΣΑΝ ἘΝ ΑὐΤΟῖς. This expression confirms the view that the second ΔΙΆ is subordinate to the first.

[232] Especially instructive for the distinction of the notion ζωή from that of life-walk, is Galatians 5:25.

[233] This divine making alive does not coincide with justification, but the latter is the actus judicialis of God that precedes the former. Comp. especially Romans 8:10 : ζωὴ διὰ δικαιοσύνην.

Ephesians 4:18. ἐσκοτισμένοι τῇ διανοίᾳ ὄντες: being darkened in their understanding. For ἐσκοτισμένοι of the TR, with [435] [436] [437] [438] [439], etc., the more classical form ἐσκοτωμένοι is given in [440] [441] [442], etc., and is preferred by LTTrWH. The ὄντες is more appropriately attached (with LTTrWHRV, Theod., Beng., Harl., de Wette, Alf., Ell., Abb., Mey., etc.) to this clause than to the following ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι, (Beza, Rück., etc.). The parallelism of the two clauses is better kept in this way, while the emphasis is thrown first on the ἐσκοτωμένοι and then on the ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι. The sentence is a further description of the walk of the Gentiles and an explanation of its vanity. Their walk is what it is because of the condition of moral darkness into which they fell and in which they continue. With ἐσκοτωμένοι compare the ἐσκοτίσθη, κ.τ.λ. of Romans 1:21, and contrast the πεφωτισμένοι as the note of the new condition in Ephesians 1:18. The τῇ διανοίᾳ is not to be taken as if this clause referred only to the intellectual condition. διάνοια covers the ideas not only of understandings, but also of feeling and desiring. It is the faculty or seat of thinking and feeling (Matthew 22:37; Luke 1:51; Luke 10:27; Colossians 1:21; 2 Peter 3:1). The dat. is that known as the dat. of sphere or reference (cf. Bernh., Synt., p. 84; Win.-Moult., pp. 263, 270), or the “local dat. ethically used” (Ell. on Galatians 1:22; Donald., Greek Gram., p. 488).—ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι: alienated. Being in a state of moral darkness they also become alienated from the true life. The word is used of those who have estranged themselves from God, here and in Ephesians 2:12; Colossians 1:21 (cf. the OT זוּר in Psalm 58:3; Ezekiel 14:5; Ezekiel 14:7.—τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ: from the life of God. This cannot mean the godly life, the way of life approved by God. For ζωή in the NT seems never to mean the course of life, but life itself, the principle of life as opposed to death. The two things are distinguished, e.g., in Galatians 5:25. Nor is there any reference here to the life of the Logos (John 1:3) in the pre-Christian world (Harl.). For it is the ἔθνη as they were known to him that Paul has in view here. The Θεοῦ, therefore, is best taken as the gen. of origin (as in δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, Romans 1:17; ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Θεοῦ, Php 4:7; cf. Win.-Moult., p. 233), = “the life that comes from God,” the spiritual life communicated by God. Some (Ell., Abb., etc.) think that the phrase means more than this, and indicates that the life thus imparted to us by God is His own life, the very life possessed by Himself, in the profoundest and most real sense “the life of God” in us.—διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς: because of the ignorance that is in them. Explicit statement of the cause of their estrangement, which was implicitly given in the ἐσκοτωμένοι. The term ἄγνοια again is not a term merely of intellect. It denotes an ignorance of Divine things, a want of knowledge that is inexcusable and involves moral blindness (Acts 3:17; Acts 17:30; 1 Peter 1:14). It is further defined here not simply as αὐτῶνtheir ignorance,” but as an ignorance οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς—surely a phrase that is neither tautological nor without a purpose, but one that describes their ignorance in respect of its seat. Their alienation had its cause not in something external, casual, or superficial, but in themselves—in a culpable ignorance in their own nature or heart (cf. the ἐσκοτίσθη ἡ ἀσύνετος αὐτῶν καρδία in Romans 1:21).—διὰ τὴν πώρωσιν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν: because of the hardening of their heart. This clause, introduced by διά, as the former also is, is taken by most (Harl., Olsh., de Wette, Ell., Alf., etc.) to be an independent statement, coordinate with the διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν, and giving a further explanation of the alienation. Such coordination of clauses is somewhat frequent with Paul (cf. Galatians 4:4, etc.). Others (Mey., Abb., etc.) attach it to the former clause, and take it to be a statement of the cause of the ἄγνοια. Thus their alienation would be due to their ignorance, and this ignorance would be caused by the hardening of their hearts. The τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς thus loses its significance, and we should have to regard it as adopted instead of the simple αὐτῶν merely with a view to clearness of connection between the ἄγνοιαν and the διὰ τὴν πώρωσιν. The noun πώρωσις means hardness, not blindness. Formed from πῶρος = hard skin or induration, it means literally the covering with a callus, and in its three occurrences in the NT (here and Mark 3:5; Romans 11:25) it is used of mental or moral hardening; as is also the verb πωρόω (Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17; John 12:40; Romans 11:7; 2 Corinthians 3:4).

[435] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[436] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.

[437] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[438] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[439] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.

[440] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[441] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[442] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

18. having the understanding darkened] Lit., haying been darkened in the understanding. On “the understanding” see note above on Ephesians 2:3 (where A.V., “mind”). The Gr. word may fairly be said to mean the reason (nous) in action. Here accordingly the phrase defines, so to speak, the phrase just previous; the general illusion of the reason comes out in obfuscated acts of thought.—On the metaphor of darkness cp. Matthew 6:23; John 3:19; John 8:12; John 12:35; John 12:46; Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5; 1 John 1:5-6; 1 John 2:8-9; 1 John 2:11; and below, ch. Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 5:11, Ephesians 6:12. It often combines the ideas of blindness and of secrecy; here it gives only the former.

being alienated from the life of God] The words, Gr. and Eng., imply a fall from a state of union. See above on Ephesians 2:12 where “alienated” occurs in another connexion. Here, as there, the Human Soul in the abstract is viewed as having shared, in its unfallen state, the Life of God, and having lost it in the Fall. And this view is transferred from the Soul to the souls in which it is individualized. Historically, we begin our personal existence aliens; ideally, we began in union and fell from it.

The life of God:—the word “life” occurs here only in the Epistle. The phrase here denotes the spiritual force given to the human spirit by spiritual contact with God, resulting in the action and exercise of holiness. The Christian believer finds “this life in His Son” (1 John 5:11). In John 17:3 we have at once its secret and its issue; “to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.” It is entered, from one point of view, by “justification of life” (Romans 5:18), that acceptance of the guilty in Christ which is the sine quâ non in Divine Law. Its development is the state of glory, which is therefore very often called, in a special sense, “eternal life” (e. g. Matthew 25:46), though that phrase is also fully true of the present state of the believer (1 John 3:15; 1 John 5:13).—It is plain that the word “life,” in spiritual connexions, means very much more than “existence.” See above on Ephesians 2:1.

through the ignorance] Better, on account of, &c. They lost connexion with the Life of God, and so remain, because of their ignorance of the eternal facts about God and holiness. We have here still something of the idealization explained just above. As the Human Soul fell through guilty “ignorance” of the supreme right and joy of absolute submission to God, so the individual soul is viewed as, ideally, losing union through the same “ignorance” of self-will. Historically, the individual begins self-willed and therefore alienated; ideally, he breaks an existing connexion. The practical aspect of the matter is that he maintains disconnexion by the ignorance of self-will. He “wills not to come that he may have life” (John 5:40), “seeing no beauty” in Christ, “that he should desire Him” in an effectual sense (Isaiah 53:2).

blindness] Better, hardening (so R.V.). The word denotes failure of sensation in general. This clause is a re-statement of that just previous. What took place “on account of ignorance” took place “on account of hardening”; another aspect of the same moral state.

heart] See on Ephesians 1:18, Ephesians 3:17. Much more than the seat of emotion is meant by this word in Scripture.—Phrases compounded of “heart” and “harden” occur (in the Gr.) Mark 3:5; Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17; John 12:40. In 2 Corinthians 3:14 we have (Gr.) “their thoughts were hardened.”

Ephesians 4:18. Ἐσκοτισμένοι τῇ διανοίᾳ ὄντες, Having the understanding darkened) This verse has four clauses. The third is to be referred to the first, and in it οὖσαν answers to ὄντες; the fourth, to the second. For ὄντες is connected also in Titus 1:16, as here, with the preceding epithet [βδελυκτοὶ ὄντες]. The participles, darkened, alienated, take for granted, that the Gentiles, before they had revolted from the faith of their fathers, nay rather before Adam’s fall, had been partakers of light and life; comp. be renewed, Ephesians 4:23.[66]—Τῆς ΖΩῆς, the life) of which, ch. Ephesians 2:5.—τοῦ Θεοῦ, of God) The spiritual life is kindled in believers from the very life of God,—[67]πώρωσιν [Engl. Vers. blindness], hardness) The antithesis is life: life and feeling (opposed to hardness) exist and fail together. Comp. Mark 3:5, note. Πώρωσις, hardness, is contradistinguished from blindness, where the latter is expressly noticed; otherwise it includes it in itself.—καρδίας, of heart) Romans 1:21.

[66] Implying a previous state of innocence.—ED.

[67] Διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν, on account of the ignorance) This of itself is the commencement of their wretched condition. Romans 1:21; Romans 1:23, [also Ephesians 4:28].—V.g.

Verse 18. - Being darkened in their understanding (second point of difference), and thus blind to all that is most vital - ignorant of God, of the way of salvation, of the love of Christ. Even at best the natural understanding cannot discover these things, and when it is not only imperfect but darkened - made more obscure than ever by sin (see after) - its guidance is altogether defective. It has been said truly that the youngest scholar in a Sunday school that has been taught the elements of the gospel has more light than the wisest of the heathen. Alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (third point of difference). Two causes are given for their alienation, viz. ignorance, and hardness of heart, this last being the ultimate cause. Through worldly living, their hearts have become hard, callous, insensible to spiritual influences, perceiving no beauty in Divine things, no preciousness in Divine promises, no excellence in the Divine image; this makes them ignorant, careless, foolish; and such being their state of heart, they are alienated from the life of God, can't bear vital religion, hate the very idea of spiritual and holy service. Ephesians 4:18Understanding (διανοίᾳ)

See on Luke 1:51. The moral understanding.

Life of God (ζωῆς)

See on John 1:4. The life which God bestows; life in Christ. See 1 John 5:11.

Through the ignorance

The cause of the alienation. Not to be construed with darkened, since ignorance is the effect, and not the cause, of the darkness of the understanding.

Which is in them (τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς)

The participle of the substantive verb expresses the deep-seated, indwelling character of the ignorance.

Hardening (πώρωσιν)

See on Mark 3:5. Dependent, like ignorance, on alienated. Arrange the whole clause thus:

The Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind,

being darkened in their understanding,

being alienated from the life of God,

because of the ignorance that is in them,


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