Bible Commentary

Ephesians 2

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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Verse 1

[1] And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

And he hath quickened you — In the nineteenth and twentieth verses of the preceding chapter, St. Paul spoke of God's working in them by the same almighty power whereby he raised Christ from the dead. On the mention of this he, in the fulness of his heart, runs into a flow of thought concerning the glory of Christ's exaltation in the three following verses. He here resumes the thread of his discourse.

Who were dead — Not only diseased, but dead; absolutely void of all spiritual life; and as incapable of quickening yourselves, as persons literally dead. In trespasses and sins-Sins seem to be spoken chiefly of the gentiles, who knew not God; trespasses, of the Jews, who had his law, and yet regarded it not, Ephesians 2:5. The latter herein obeyed the flesh; the former, the prince of the power of the air.

Verse 2

[2] Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

According to the course of this world — The word translated course properly means a long series of times, wherein one corrupt age follows another.

According to the prince of the power of the air — The effect of which power all may perceive, though all do not understand the cause of it: a power unspeakably penetrating and widely diffused; but yet, as to its baneful influences, beneath the orb of believers. The evil spirits are united under one head, the seat of whose dominion is in the air. Here he sometimes raises storms, sometimes makes visionary representations, and is continually roving to and fro.

The spirit that now worketh — With mighty power; and so he did, and doth in all ages.

In the sons of disobedience — In all who do not believe and obey the gospel.

Verse 3

[3] Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Among whom we — Jews.

Also, formerly had our conversation: doing the will of the flesh — In gross, brutal sins.

And of the mind — By spiritual, diabolical wickedness. In the former clause, flesh denotes the whole evil nature; in the latter, the body opposed to the soul.

And were by nature — That is, in our natural state.

Children of wrath — Having the wrath of God abiding on us, even as the gentiles. This expression, by nature, occurs also, Galatians 4:8; Romans 2:14; and thrice in the eleventh chapter. Romans 11:24 But in none of these places does it signify, by custom, or practice, or customary practice, as a late writer affirms. Nor can it mean so here For this would make the apostle guilty of gross tautology, their customary sinning having been expressed already, in the former part of the verse. But all these passages agree in expressing what belongs to the nature of the persons spoken of.

Verse 4

[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Mercy removes misery: love confers salvation.

Verse 5

[5] Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

He hath quickened us together with Christ — In conformity to him, and by virtue of our union with him.

By grace ye are saved — Grace is both the beginning and end. The apostle speaks indifferently either in the first or second person; the Jews and gentiles being in the same circumstance, both by nature and by grace. This text lays the axe to the very root of spiritual pride, and all glorying in ourselves. Therefore St. Paul, foreseeing the backwardness of mankind to receive it, yet knowing the absolute necessity of its being received, again asserts the very same truth, Ephesians 2:8, in the very same words.

Verse 6

[6] And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

And hath raised us up together — Both Jews and gentiles already in spirit; and ere long our bodies too will be raised.

And made us all sit together in heavenly places — This is spoken by way of anticipation. Believers are not yet possessed of their seats in heaven; but each of them has a place prepared for him.

Verse 7

[7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

The ages to come — That is, all succeeding ages.

Verse 8

[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

By grace ye are saved through faith — Grace, without any respect to human worthiness, confers the glorious gift. Faith, with an empty hand, and without any pretence to personal desert, receives the heavenly blessing.

And this is not of yourselves — This refers to the whole preceding clause, That ye are saved through faith, is the gift of God.

Verse 9

[9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Not by works — Neither this faith nor this salvation is owing to any works you ever did, will, or can do.

Verse 10

[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

For we are his workmanship — Which proves both that salvation is by faith, and that faith is the gift of God.

Created unto good works — That afterwards we might give ourselves to them.

Which God had before preprepared — The occasions of them: so we must still ascribe the whole to God.

That we might walk in them — Though not be justified by them.

Verse 11

[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

Wherefore remember — Such a remembrance strengthens faith, and increases gratitude.

That ye being formerly gentiles in the flesh — Neither circumcised in body nor in spirit. Who were accordingly called the uncircumcision - By way of reproach.

By that which is called the circumcision — By those who call themselves the circumcised, and think this a proof that they are the people of God; and who indeed have that outward circumcision which is performed by hands in the flesh.

Verse 12

[12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

Were at that time without Christ — Having no faith in, or knowledge of, him.

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel — Both as to their temporal privileges and spiritual blessings.

And strangers to the covenants of promise — The great promise in both the Jewish and Christian covenant was the Messiah.

Having no hope — Because they had no promise whereon to ground their hope. And being without God - Wholly ignorant of the true God, and so in effect atheists. Such in truth are, more or less, all men, in all ages, till they know God by the teaching of his own Spirit.

In the world — The wide, vain world, wherein ye wandered up and down, unholy and unhappy.

Verse 13

[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Far off — From God and his people.

Nigh — Intimately united to both.

Verse 14

[14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

For he is our peace — Not only as he purchased it, but as he is the very bond and centre of union.

He who hath made both — Jews and gentiles, one church. The apostle describes, 1. The conjunction of the gentiles with Israel, Ephesians 2:14,15. And, 2. The conjunction of both with God, Ephesians 2:15-18. Each description is subdivided into two parts. And the former part of the one, concerning abolishing the enmity, answers the former part of the other; the latter part of the one, concerning the evangelical decrees, the latter part of the other.

And hath broken down the middle wall of partition — Alluding to that wall of old, which separated the court of Israel from the court of the gentiles. Such a wall was the ceremonial law, which Christ had now taken away.

Verse 15

[15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Having abolished by his suffering in the flesh the cause of enmity between the Jews and gentiles, even the law of ceremonial commandments, through his decrees - Which offer mercy to all; see Colossians 2:14.

That he might form the two — Jew and gentile.

Into one new man — one mystical body.

Verse 16

[16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

In one body — One church.

Having slain — By his own death on the cross.

The enmity — Which had been between sinners and God.

Verse 17

[17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

And he came — After his resurrection.

And preached peace — By his ministers and his Spirit.

To you — Gentiles.

That were afar off — At the utmost distance from God.

And to them that were nigh — To the Jews, who were comparatively nigh, being his visible church.

Verse 18

[18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

For through him, we both — Jews and gentiles.

Have access — Liberty of approaching, by the guidance and aid of one Spirit to God as our Father. Christ, the Spirit, and the Father, the three-one God, stand frequently in the same order.

Verse 19

[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Therefore ye are no longer strangers, but citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem; no longer foreigners, but received into the very family of God.

Verse 20

[20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets — As the foundation sustains the building, so the word of God, declared by the apostles and prophets, sustains the faith of all believers. God laid the foundation by them; but Christ himself is the chief corner-stone of the foundation. Elsewhere he is termed the foundation itself, 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Verse 21

[21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

On whom all the building fitly framed together — The whole fabric of the universal church rises up like a great pile of living materials.

Into an holy temple in the Lord — Dedicated to Christ, and inhabited by him, in which he displays his presence, and is worshipped and glorified. What is the temple of Diana of the Ephesians, whom ye formerly worshipped, to this?

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