13. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for
you, which is your glory.
13. Quare peto, ne deficiatis in afflictionibus meis pro vobis,
quae est gloria vestra.
13. Wherefore I desire. His reason for alluding formerly to his
imprisonment is now manifest. It was to prevent them from being discouraged
when they heard of his persecution. O heroic breast, which drew from
a prison, and from death itself, comfort to those who were not in danger!
He says that, he endured tribulations for the Ephesians, because they tended
to promote the edification of all the godly. How powerfully is the faith
of the people confirmed, when a pastor does not hesitate to seal his doctrine
by the surrender of his life ! And accordingly he adds, which is your glory.
Such lustre was thrown around his instructions, that, all the churches
among whom he had labored, had good reason to glory, when they beheld their
faith ratified by the best of all pledges.
14. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus
14. Hujus rei gratia flecto genua ad Patrem Domini nostri Iesu Christi,
15. Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
15. Ex quo omnis cognatio in coelis et super terram nominatur,
16. That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory,
to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
16. Ut det vobis secundum divitias gloriae suae, potentia roborari
per Spiritum suum in hominem interiorem,
17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being
rooted and grounded in love,
17. Ut inhabitet Christus per fidem in cordibus vestris, ut sitis
in charitate radicati atque fundati,
18. May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth,
and length, and depth, and height;
18. Quo valeatis comprehendere cum omnibus sanctis, quae sit latitudo,
et longitudo, et profunditas, et altitudo;
19. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that
ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
19. Cognoscere, inquam, dilectionem Christi, quae cognitionem exsuperat,
ut completi sitis in omnem plenitudinem Dei.
14. For this cause. His prayers for them are mentioned, not only
to testify his regard for them, but likewise to excite them to pray in
the same manner; for the seed of the word is scattered in vain, unless
the Lord render it fruitful by his blessing. Let pastors learn from Paul’s
example, not only to admonish and exhort their people, but to entreat the
Lord to bless their labors, that they may not be unfruitful. Nothing will
be gained by their industry and toil, — all their study and application
will be to no purpose, except so far as the Lord bestows his blessing.
This ought not to be regarded by them as an encouragement to sloth. It
is their duty, on the contrary, to labor earnestly in sowing and watering,
provided they, at the same time, ask and expect the increase from the Lord.
We are thus enabled to refute the slanders of the Pelagians and Papists,
who argue, that, if the grace of the Holy Spirit performs the whole work
of enlightening our minds, and forming our hearts to obedience, all instruction
will be superfluous. The only effect of the enlightening and renewing influences
of the Holy Spirit is, to give to instruction its proper weight and efficacy,
that we may not be blind to the light of heaven, or deaf to the strains
of truth. While the Lord alone acts upon us, he acts by his own instruments.
It is therefore the duty of pastors diligently to teach, — of the people,
earnestly to receive instruction, — and of both, not to weary themselves
in unprofitable exertions, but to look up for Divine aid.
I bow my knees. The bodily attitude is here put for the religious
exercise itself. Not that prayer, in all cases, requires the bending of
the knees, but because this expression of reverence is commonly employed,
especially where it is not an incidental petition, but a continued prayer.
15. Of whom the whole family. The relative, ex
ou, of whom, may apply equally to the Father and to the Son. Erasmus
restricts it entirely to the Father. I do not approve of this; for readers
ought to have been allowed a liberty of choice; nay, the other interpretation
appears to be far more probable. The apostle alludes to that relationship
which the Jews had with each other, through their father Abraham, to whom
they trace their lineage. He proposes, on the contrary, to remove the distinction
between Jews and Gentiles; and tells them, not only that all men have been
brought into one family and one race through Christ, but that they are
enabled to claim kindred even with angels.
To apply it to God the Father would not be equally defensible, being
liable to this obvious exception, that God formerly passed by the Gentiles,
and adopted the Jews as his peculiar people. But when we apply it to Christ,
the whole of Paul’s statement agrees with the facts; for all come and blend
together, as one family, and, related to one God the Father, are mutually
brethren. Let us therefore understand that, through the mediation of Christ,
a relationship has been constituted between Jews and Gentiles, because,
by reconciling us to the Father, he has made us all one. Jews have no longer
any reason to boast that they are the posterity of Abraham, or that they
belong to this or that tribe, — to despise others as profane, and claim
the exclusive honor of being a holy people. There is but one relationship
which ought to be reckoned, both in heaven and on earth, both among angels
and among men a union to the body of Christ. Out of him all will be found
scattered. He alone is the bond by which we are united.
16. That he would give to you. Paul wishes that the Ephesians
should be strengthened; and yet he had already bestowed on their piety
no mean commendation. But believers have never advanced so far as not to
need farther growth. The highest perfection of the godly in this life is
an earnest desire to make progress. This strengthening, he tells us, is
the work of the Spirit; so that it does not proceed from man’s own ability.
The increase, as well as the commencement, of everything good in us, comes
from the Holy Spirit. That it is the gift of Divine grace, is evident from
the expression used, that he would give to you. This the Papists utterly
deny. They maintain that the second grace is bestowed upon us, according
as we have individually deserved it, by making a proper use of the first
grace. But let us unite with Paul in acknowledging that it is the “gift”
of the grace of God, not only that we have begun to run well, but that
we advance; not only that we have been born again, but that we grow from
day to day.
According to the riches of his glory. These words are intended
to express still more strongly the doctrine of Divine grace. They may be
explained in two ways: either, according to his glorious riches, making
the genitive, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, supply the place of an adjective,
or, according to his rich and abundant glory. The word glory will thus
be put for mercy, in accordance with an expression which he had formerly
used, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:6) I prefer
the latter view.
In the inner man. By the inner man, Paul means the soul, and
whatever relates to the spiritual life of the soul; as the outward man
denotes the body, with everything that belongs to it, — health, honors,
riches, vigor, beauty, and everything of that nature. “Though our outward
man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day;” that is, if in worldly
matters we decay, our spiritual life becomes more and more vigorous. (2
Corinthians 4:16) The prayer of Paul, that the saints may be strengthened,
does not mean that they may be eminent and flourishing in the world, but
that, with respect to the kingdom of God, their minds may be made strong
by Divine power.
17. That Christ may dwell. He explains what is meant by “the
strength of the inner man.” As
“it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” (Colossians
so he who has Christ dwelling in him can want nothing. It is a mistake
to imagine that the Spirit can be obtained without obtaining Christ; and
it is equally foolish and absurd to dream that we can receive Christ without
the Spirit. Both doctrines must be believed. We are partakers of the Holy
Spirit, in proportion to the intercourse which we maintain with Christ;
for the Spirit will be found nowhere but in Christ, on whom he is said,
on that account, to have rested; for he himself says, by the prophet Isaiah,
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me.” (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18.) But
neither can Christ be separated from his Spirit; for then he would be said
to be dead, and to have lost all his power.
Justly, therefore, does Paul affirm that the persons who are endowed
by God with spiritual vigor are those in whom Christ dwells. He points
to that part in which Christ peculiarly dwells, in your hearts, — to show
that it is not enough if the knowledge of Christ dwell on the tongue or
flutter in the brain.
May dwell through faith. The method by which so great a benefit
is obtained is also expressed. What a remarkable commendation is here bestowed
on faith, that, by means of it, the Son of God becomes our own, and “makes
his abode with us!” (John 14:23.) By faith we not only acknowledge that
Christ suffered and rose from the dead on our account, but, accepting the
offers which he makes of himself, we possess and enjoy him as our Savior.
This deserves our careful attention. Most people consider fellowship with
Christ, and believing in Christ, to be the same thing; but the fellowship
which we have with Christ is the consequence of faith. In a word, faith
is not a distant view, but a warm embrace, of Christ, by which he dwells
in us, and we are filled with the Divine Spirit.
That ye may be rooted and grounded in love. Among the fruits
of Christ’s dwelling in us the apostle enumerates love and gratitude for
the Divine grace and kindness exhibited to us in Christ. Hence it follows,
that this is true and solid excellence; so that, whenever he treats of
the perfection of the saints, he views it as consisting of these two parts.
The firmness and constancy which our love ought to possess are pointed
out by two metaphors. There are many persons not wholly destitute of love;
but it is easily removed or shaken, because its roots are not deep. Paul
desires that it should be rooted and grounded, — thoroughly fixed
in our minds, so as to resemble a well-founded building or deeply-planted
tree. The true meaning is, that our roots ought to be so deeply planted,
and our foundation so firmly laid in love, that nothing will be able to
shake us. It is idle to infer from these words, that love is the foundation
and root of our salvation. Paul does not inquire here, as any one may perceive,
on what our salvation is founded, but with what firmness and constancy
we ought to continue in the exercise of love.
18. May be able to comprehend. The second fruit is, that the
Ephesians should perceive the greatness of Christ’s love to men. Such an
apprehension or knowledge springs from faith. By desiring that they should
comprehend it with all saints, he shows that it is the most excellent blessing
which they can obtain in the present life; that it is the highest wisdom,
to which all the children of God aspire. What follows is sufficiently clear
in itself, but has hitherto been darkened by a variety of interpretations.
Augustine is quite delighted with his own acuteness, which throws no light
on the subject. Endeavouring to discover some kind of mysterious allusion
to the figure of the cross, he makes the breadth to be love, — the height,
hope, — the length, patience, and the depth, humility. This is very ingenious
and entertaining: but what has it to do with Paul’s meaning? Not more,
certainly, than the opinion of Ambrose, that the allusion is to the figure
of a sphere. Laying aside the views of others, I shall state what will
be universally acknowledged to be the simple and true meaning.
19. And to know the love of Christ. By those dimensions Paul
means nothing else than the love of Christ, of which he speaks afterwards.
The meaning is, that he who knows it fully and perfectly is in every respect
a wise man. As if he had said, “In whatever direction men may look, they
will find nothing in the doctrine of salvation that does not bear some
relation to this subject.” The love of Christ contains within itself the
whole of wisdom, so that the words may run thus: that ye may be able to
comprehend the love of Christ, which is the length and breadth, and depth,
and height, that is, the complete perfection of all wisdom. The metaphor
is borrowed from mathematicians, taking the parts as expressive of the
whole. Almost all men are infected with the disease of desiring to obtain
useless knowledge. It is of great importance that we should be told what
is necessary for us to know, and what the Lord desires us to contemplate,
above and below, on the right hand and on the left, before and behind.
The love of Christ is held out to us as the subject which ought to occupy
our daily and nightly meditations, and in which we ought to be wholly plunged.
He who is in possession of this alone has enough. Beyond it there is nothing
solid, nothing useful, — nothing, in short, that is proper or sound. Though
you survey the heaven and earth and sea, you will never go beyond this
without overstepping the lawful boundary of wisdom.
Which surpasseth knowledge. A similar expression occurs in another
“the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, shall keep your
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
No man can approach to God without being raised above himself and above
the world. On this ground the sophists refuse to admit that we can know
with certainty that we enjoy the grace of God; for they measure faith by
the perception of the bodily senses. But Paul justly contends that this
wisdom exceeds all knowledge; for, if the faculties of man could reach
it, the prayer of Paul that God would bestow it must have been unnecessary.
Let us remember, therefore, that the certainty of faith is knowledge, but
is acquired by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, not by the acuteness of
our own intellect. If the reader desire a more full discussion of this
subject, he may consult the “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”
That ye may be filled. Paul now expresses in one word what he meant
by the various dimensions. He who has Christ has everything necessary for
being made perfect in God; for this is the meaning of the phrase, the fullness
of God. Men do certainly imagine that they have entire completeness in
themselves, but it is only when their pride is swelled with empty trifles.
It is a foolish and wicked dream, that by the fullness of God is meant
the full Godhead, as if men were raised to an equality with God.
20. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
20. Ei autem, qui potest cumulate super omnia facere, quae petimus
aut cogitamus, secundum potentiam in nobis agentem,
21. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all
ages, world without end. Amen.
21. Sit gloria in Ecclesia per Iesum Christum, in omnes aetates
seculi seculorum. Amen.
20. Now to him. He now breaks out into thanksgiving, which serves
the additional purpose of exhorting the Ephesians to maintain “good hope
through grace,” (2 Thessalonians 2:16,) and to endeavor constantly to obtain
more and more adequate conceptions of the value of the grace of God.
Who is able. This refers to the future, and agrees with
what we are taught concerning hope; and indeed we cannot offer to God proper
or sincere thanksgivings for favors received, unless we are convinced that
his goodness to us will be without end. When he says that God is able,
he does not mean power viewed apart, as the phrase is, from the act, but
power which is exerted, and which we actually feel. Believers ought always
to connect it with the work, when the promises made to them, and their
own salvation, form the subject of inquiry. Whatever God can do, he unquestionably
will do, if he has promised it. This the apostle proves both by former
instances, and by the efficacy of the Spirit, which was at this very time
exerted on their own minds.
According to the power that worketh in us, — according to what
we feel within ourselves; for every benefit which God bestows upon us is
a manifestation of his grace, and love, and power, in consequence of which
we ought to cherish a stronger confidence for the future. Exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think, is a remarkable expression, and bids us
entertain no fear lest faith of a proper kind should go to excess. Whatever
expectations we form of Divine blessings, the infinite goodness of God
will exceed all our wishes and all our thoughts.