James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;Ephesians 2:1-22
ADDRESS TO THE GENTILES
This church, like all the others, was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, but chiefly Gentiles. Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles and he never loses sight of this calling in his speaking or writing. It is especially necessary that he now address himself to them, because of the nature of the truth he is revealing: the union of Gentile and Jew in the mystical body of Christ. The chapter shows us three things: our condition by nature (Ephesians 2:1-3); our change from nature to grace (Ephesians 2:4-10); and our condition by grace (Ephesians 2:11-22).
OUR CONDITION BY NATURE (Ephesians 2:1-3)
“Dead in (or through) trespasses and sins.” Spiritual death is meant, consisting in alienation from the life of God, being destitute of His Spirit (Ephesians 4:18-19). It continues after the physical dissolution of the body, and consists in external separation from God in conscious suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Luke 16:23). The Scripture speaks of this latter as the second death (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8). But in this life to be “dead in trespasses and sins” is equivalent to be walking “according to the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2); to be doing this is one with holding allegiance to Satan, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.’’ And there is no exception to the rule, for all mankind before they come to Christ have this manner of life. In other words, they are following after the desires of the flesh, their fallen nature, for which reason they are exposed to the wrath of God against sin (Ephesians 2:3).
OUR CHANGE FROM NATURE TO GRACE (Ephesians 2:4-10)
God, and not ourselves, is the cause of this change. God in the going out of His mercy and love toward us (Ephesians 2:4). The great instrumental means is Christ, and the method employed is to quicken, raise us up, and make us “sit together in heavenly place” in Him (Ephesians 2:5-6). Observe the past tenses here. He “hath quickened us.” Believers are already spiritually alive in Christ. He “hath raised us up.” In the mind and purpose of God, believers are already physically raised from the dead. “Together” with Christ are they raised, the philosophy of which is seen as we retain in mind the illuminating figure of the human body. If, in the physical sense, one’s head is raised from the dead, must not the same be true of all the members of His body? And so, in the spiritual sense, if Christ is the Head of the body His church, and if He is risen from the dead, must not His whole body be risen? It is nothing to say that so far as believers are concerned this is not yet true in an experimental sense. The point is that in God’s mind and purpose it is true, and with Him time is not counted. He hath “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In other words, we who believe are already exalted with Him. “Heavenly places,” literally translated, is “the heavenlies,” and means “that which is heavenly in contradistinction to that which is earthly.” We are already in the “heavenlies” in Christ in the sense that (1) we are partakers of His heavenly nature (2 Peter 1:4), and life (Colossians 3:4; 1 John 5:12); (2) we enjoy the same heavenly fellowship (John 20:17; Colossians 1:24; Php 3:10; Hebrews 2:11; 1 John 1:3); and (3) we have a heavenly inheritance (Romans 8:18-21; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:5).
The object of God in thus changing us from nature to grace is expressed in Ephesians 2:7, and corresponds to Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14, “the praise of His glory,” especially the glory of His grace. From the human side, all this comes to pass through faith “not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And indeed, on our part there can be no good works acceptable to God, until this change occurs. It is then we are created anew in order to bring forth such works (Ephesians 2:10). This last is the present and earthly effect of our changed condition.
OUR CONDITION BY GRACE (Ephesians 2:11-22)
Ephesians 2:11 shows that Gentiles rather than Israelites are particularly in mind. Before becoming Christians they were “separate from Christ” (Ephesians 2:12 RV), in that they did not belong to the commonwealth, or nation, of Israel. Not belonging to Israel they were “strangers from the covenants of the promise” (RV). The “promise” was of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, in connection with which, and for the carrying out of which, God entered into many covenants, or agreements with Israel, as the Old Testament has shown us. To none of these covenants did the Gentiles bear any relation. Hence the latter were without hope in the world such as Israel had, and being without such hope, they were practically “without God.” They were thus “afar off” from Israel in point of privilege and blessing, but now, being in Christ Jesus, they had been “made nigh” (Ephesians 2:13). Christ had become their “peace,” He had brought the Gentile and Jew together, by breaking down that which had separated them (Ephesians 2:14), “even the law of commandments in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15). This He did by His death on the cross, having fulfilled the law in the ceremonial sense and kept it in the moral sense, on their behalf. He had thus made in Himself of the two men, Jew and Gentile, One New Man, by which is meant not an individual believer, but that mystical conception, Christ, spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:12. The Christ there, as we saw, meant not the Personal Christ, but the Personal Christ plus the church considered as His body, the members of which are baptized into Him by the Holy Spirit. This is the Great Mystery of which Paul speaks here, and which he had been especially commissioned to reveal. How wonderful it is! Both these two classes, Jews and Gentiles, have been reconciled to God “in one body by the cross” (Ephesians 2:16), in the sense that Christ’s work on the cross took away the enmity between them both and God. He thus preached peace with God to both, to the Gentiles “afar off” from God, and to the Jews “that were nigh” in comparison with them as indicated in Ephesians 2:12. These both, Jew and Gentile, now alike through Christ, had access by the Holy Spirit “unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The Gentile, in comparison with the Jews, had been “strangers and foreigners,” but were now “fellow-citizens with the saints.” In Ephesians 2:20 the figure is changed to a building to which Christ is the Chief Corner Stone. In Him “each several building” (RV), “groweth into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21). This holy temple is “a habitation of God through the Spirit.” Because the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer, he dwells in the whole company of believers, and this means that He dwells in the church, which is His habitation (compare Revelation 21:2-3).
1. Why is it specially necessary for the apostle to now address himself to the Gentiles?
2. What three things are shown in this chapter?
3. How do verses 2-3 explain being “dead in trespasses and sins”?
4. What is God’s method in changing men from nature to grace?
5. What is the significance of the past tense in the working out of this method?
6. What is meant by “heavenly places”?
7. What object has God before Him in all this?
8. Analyze Ephesians 2:12.
9. What is meant by “one new man”?
10. Explain Ephesians 2:18.