I have strengthened its pillars (Ps. 75:4)
Wisely has it been remarked that: “No less energy is spent in retaining possessions than in acquiring them.” Although St. Paul did not initiate the Ephesians into the faith, the Apostle is justly praised for having strengthened them in it. Of the Church at Ephesus he rightfully can claim: I have strengthened its pillars—I who am an Israelite in nationality, a Christian in religion, an Apostle in dignity.
A Jew by birth, for I am an Israelite sprung from Abraham’s seed in the tribe of Benjamin (cf. 2 Cor. 11:22; Rom. 11: 1). A Christian in religion, “For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live to God; with Christ I am nailed to the cross. And I live, now not I; but Christ lives in me. And [the life] that I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:19-20). An Apostle in dignity since I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9). These three are found in 2 Corinthians 11 (22-23*): “They are Israelites: so am I. They are the seed of Abraham: so am I. They are the ministers of Christ, so am I. I speak as one less wise: I am more.” Everyone who proclaims saving wisdom, like Paul, must be an Israelite in his contemplation of God, a Christian in his religious faith, an Apostle in his function’s authority.
I, therefore, am a Jew by birth, seeking God through faith, and am an Apostle of God through following the example [of the twelve]. I have strengthened them lest they falter in their faith, as the workman will buttress a building against a fall. “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk. 22:32), was spoken to Peter and accomplished by Paul. A verse in Job 4 (4) applies to him: “Your words have upheld the stumbler.” The bishop confirms a boy to fortify him against becoming spiritless; similarly, Paul has strengthened the Ephesians not to fear unreasonably. In this connection, Psalm 89 (21-22) says of David: “I have found David my servant: with my holy oil I have anointed him. For my hand shall help him: and my arm shall strengthen him.”
“By the word of the Lord,” written through Paul, “the heavens,” applying to the Ephesians, “were established” (Ps. 33:6) lest they lose their prize of glory, just as a prelate or prince ratifies a gift to protect it against theft. Psalm 41 (13) prays: “Because of my perfection grasp me, and set me before you forever.” Psalm 68 (29) also asks for strengthening power: “Send, my God, your strength; strengthen, God, what you have built for us.” The Apostle promised these divine aids in 2 Thessalonians 3 (3): “But the Lord is faithful, who will strengthen and keep you from evil.”
I have strengthened its pillars, namely, the Church’s faithful at Ephesus. They are referred to as pillars since they must be straightforward, upright, and strong—straightfoward through faith, upright through hope, and strong because of charity. I say straightforward through faith because faith reveals the straight and true way to arrive at the fatherland; it is symbolized by the pillar of cloud in Exodus 13 (21): “And the Lord went before them to show the way by day in a pillar of a cloud.” Faith, similar to clouds, is opaque with its mysteries, dissolves when it gives way to vision, and moistens by arousing devotion. [The faithful are] upright through hope, for hope points heavenwards; it is symbolized by the column of smoke in Judges 20 (40): “The signal rose from the city as a pillar of smoke.” Hope, like smoke from fire, springs from charity, ascends upward, and finally vanishes in glory. [The faithful must be] strong through charity, “for love is strong as death” (Cant. 8:6); hence, it is symbolized by a pillar of fire capable of consuming everything, as in Wisdom 18 (3): “Therefore, [they received] a burning pillar of fire for a guide on the unknown journey.” As fire makes the surroundings visible, puts metals to the test, and destroys what can burn, so charity enlightens human actions, examines one’s motives, and exterminates all vices.
The efficient cause of this letter is, of course, St. Paul; this cause was ascribed to the I of Psalm 75 (4). The final cause is to fortify, designated by the have strengthened. The material cause is the Ephesians, as noted under its pillars. The formal cause will be understood in the structural divisions of the letter and its method of presentation.
A Glossator prefaces this letter with a prologue or summary expressing two main ideas:
First, he describes them [the recipients].
Secondly, he gives the reason and circumstances of writing, at “The Apostle praises them.”
The Ephesians, to whom he wrote, are described in three ways: first, by their locality, “the Ephesians are Asians,” coming from Asia Minor; second, by their religion, “they have accepted the word” of Christian “truth”; third is their constancy, “they have remained steadfast in the faith.” The first has reference to their home country, the second to grace, and the third to perseverance.
At “The Apostle praises them...” he adds the reason and circumstance for writing; secondly, the author is “the Apostle”; thirdly, the place from which he writes is “from a prison in Rome”; fourthly, the messenger through whom he writes is Tychius, a deacon” (cf. Eph. 6:21).
From Paul who by God’s decision is apostle of the Messiah Jesus, to the saints (in Ephesus) who are faithful to the Messiah Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
With the full spiritual blessing of the heavens he has blessed us in Christ.
For he chose us in him before the world’s foundation
to be holy and faultless before him in love.
He predesignated us to become his children, through Jesus Christ,
his very own, according to his favorable decision─
to the praise of his glorious grace,
[Read Marcus Barth, on “the Messiah Jesus” (p. 66), on “to be comprehended under one head” (p. 89). ]
1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to all the saints who are at Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ,
4 As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity,
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the purpose of his will,
6a Unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
The Apostle writes this letter to the Ephesians who were Asians, coming from Asia Minor which is part of Greece. They were not initiated into the faith by the Apostle Paul but he did strengthen them in it. Even before he had met them, they had been converted, as can be gathered from Acts 19 (1): “It happened that, while Appollo was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, where he found certain disciples.” Once they were converted and fortified by the Apostle, they were steadfast in the faith, not succumbing to false doctrine. Thus, they were entitled to encouragement rather than reprimand; and Paul’s letter has a tone of reassurance and not of rebuke. He wrote them from the city of Rome through the deacon, Tychicus.”
The Apostle’s intention is to strengthen them in good habits, and spur them on to greater perfection. The method of presentation can be seen in the division of the letter:
First, the greeting, in which he shows his affection for them.
Secondly, the narrative, in which he strengthens them in good habits (1:3-3:21).
Thirdly, the exhortation, in which he urges them on to greater perfection (4:1-6:9).
Fourthly, the conclusion of the letter, in which he fortifies them for the spiritual combat (6:10-24).
In the salutation, the person greeting comes first, second those greeted, and thirdly the formula of greeting. In reference to the first, he gives the name of the person, Paul; second, that person’s authority as an Apostle of Christ; lastly, the giver of this authority, by the will of God. He says Paul which is a name of humility, whereas the title of Apostle is one of dignity; the reason is that “he that humbles himself shall be exalted” (Lk. 14:11; 18:14). An Apostle, I mean, of Jesus and not one of the pseudo-apostles who are of Satan: “It is no great thing if his [Satan’s] ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice” (2 Cor. 11:15). I am an apostle, he says, not by my own merits but by the will of God. In many instances it is just the opposite—“They have reigned, but not by me” (Hos. 8:4).
He writes to all the saints who are at Ephesus and to the faithful. Either [this could mean], I, Paul, write about morals to those who are holy through the exercise of virtues; and about faith to those who believe with true knowledge. Or, [it may mean], to the saints who are the elders and perfect [members], and to the faithful who are less experienced and imperfect. They are said to believe in Christ Jesus and not in their own deeds.
He adds here the formula of greeting which indicates three qualities which make any gift pleasing: the sufficiency of the gift, in grace be to you and peace; the power of the giver, from God our Father; and the excellence of the mediator, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. For a gift is pleasing when what is given is sufficient and is offered by someone in power, as a king or prince, and is presented by a solemn messenger, for example, by his son.
He mentions grace meaning justification from sin, and peace which is calmness of mind, or reconciliation to God, in regard to the freedom from punishment due to sin. May this be to you from God our Father from whom every good comes: “Every good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jam. 1:17). And the Lord Jesus Christ without whom no blessings are given. That is why nearly all the [liturgical] prayers are concluded “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the greeting form ula since he is the bond uniting Father and Son and is understood when they are mentioned; or he is understood in the gifts appropriated to him, grace and peace.
Then when he says Blessed be God... (v. 3) in giving thanks, he strengthens them in good, and he does this in three ways:
First, by giving as a reason Christ, from whom they have received so many gifts (Ch. 1).
Secondly, by reason of they themselves who have been transformed from a former evil condition to their present good one (Ch. 2).
Thirdly, because of the Apostle himself, whose ministry and solicitude has confirmed them in their good state (Ch. 3).
The first is divided into three sections:
First, in giving thanks he touches on blessings in a general way.
Secondly, then the blessings given the Apostles in particular (1:8).
Thirdly, finally the blessings especially granted to the Epbesians themselves (1: 13).
He treats of six blessings offered generally to the human race:
First, that of praising [God] in the certainty of future beatitude (1:3).
Secondly, that of being chosen in the foreordained separation from those headed toward destruction ( 1: 4).
Thirdly, that of predestination in the foreordained community of the good, namely, of the adopted sons (1:5).
Fourthly, that of becoming pleasing [to God] through the gift of grace ( 1: 6b).
Fifthly, that of being redeemed, liberated from the punishment of diabolical slavery ( 1: 7a).
Sixthly, that of being pardoned by having sin blotted out (1:7b).
Regarding the benefit of praise (v. 3) two aspects are touched on:
First, the praise itself which should be rendered, at Blessed be God.
Secondly, the blessing on account of which it should be rendered, at who hath blessed us.
He says that God should be blessed or praised by you, me and others with our hearts, tongues and actions. He who is God by the divine essence and Father because of his property of generating [the Son]. The copula and is not placed between God and Father to designate two separate persons, for there is only one Father, but to denote what he is by his essence and what he is in relation to the Son. Father, I say, of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, of the Son who is our Lord because of his divinity, and Jesus Christ according to his humanity.
God who has blessed us with hope in the present while in the future he will bless us with the reality. He puts [the verb] in the past tense, instead of the future, on account of his certainty. Even though by our own merits we were cursed, he blessed us with every spiritual blessing both for soul and for body. For then the body will be spiritual: “It is sown a natural body: it shall rise a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44). [This will occur] by a blessing enjoyed in heavenly places, that is, in heaven, and in Christ since it will be through Christ or by Christ’s action: “For he himself will transform our lowly body” (Phil. 3:21).
This blessing is greatly to be desired. And this by reason of its efficient cause since God is the one who blesses; and by reason of its material cause since he has blessed us; and because of the formal cause since he blessed us with every spiritual blessing; and on account of the end, he blessed us in heavenly places. “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord” (Ps. 127:4).
Next (v. 4), he treats of the blessing of election; he sets forth the advantages of this election because: it is free, as he chose us in him; it is eternal, before the foundation of the world; it is fruitful, that we should be holy; and it is gratuitous, in charity.
Therefore he states: He blessed us in the same way—not through our merits but from the grace of Christ—as he chose us and, separating us from those headed to destruction, freely foreordained us in him, that is, through Christ. “You have not chosen me; but I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16). This happened before the foundation of the world, from eternity, before we came into being. For when the children were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election, might stand” (Rom. 9:11). He chose us, I say, not because we were holy—we had not yet come into existence—but that we should be holy in virtues and unspotted by vices. For election performs this twofold action of justice: “Turn away from evil and do good” (Ps. 33:15).
Saints, I assert, in his sight; interiorly in the heart where he alone can see: “The Lord sees the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Or, in his sight may mean that we may gaze on him since the [beatific] vision, according to Augustine, is the whole of our reward. He will accomplish this, not by our merits, but in his charity; or, by our [charity] with which he formally sanctifies us.
Then (v. 5) he adds the third blessing, that of predestination in the foreordained community of those who are good. Six characteristics of predestination are sketched here. First, it is an eternal act, having predestinated; secondly, it has a temporal object, us; thirdly, it offers a present privilege, the adoption of children through Jesus Christ; fourthly, the result is future, unto himself; fifthly, its manner [of being realized] is gratuitous, according to the purpose of his will; sixthly, it has a fitting effect, unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
Hence he affirms that God, having predestinated us, has fore-chosen us by grace alone unto the adoption of children that we might share with the other adopted children the goods yet to come—thus he says unto the adoption of children. “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons,” and further on, “waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:15 & 23).
It must be through contact with fire that something starts to burn since nothing obtains a share in some reality except through whatever is that reality by its very nature. Hence the adoption of sons has to occur through the natural son. For this reason the Apostle adds through Jesus Christ, which is the third characteristic touched on in this blessing, namely, the mediator who draws all to himself. “God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). This is accomplished unto himself, that is, inasmuch as we are conformed to him and become servants in the Spirit. “See what love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; and so we are,” after which comes: “We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him” (1 Jn. 3:1-2).
Here it should be noted that the likeness of the predestined to the Son of God is twofold. One is imperfect, it is [the likeness] through grace. It is called imperfect, firstly, becatise it only concerns the reformation of the soul. Regarding this Ephesians 4 (23-24) states: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.” Secondly, even with the soul it retains some imperfection, “for we know in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). However, the second likeness, which will be in glory, will be perfect; both as regards the body—“He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” (Phil. 3:21)—and in regard to the soul—“when the perfect comes, the imperfect shall pass away” (1 Cor. 13:10).
What the Apostle says, therefore, about his predestinating us unto the adoption of children can refer to the imperfect assimilation to the Son of God possessed in this life through grace. But it is more probable that it refers to the perfect assimilation to the Son of God which will exist in the fatherland. In reference to this adoption Romans 8 (23) asserts: “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God.”
Divine predestination is neither necessitated on God’s part nor due to those who are predestined; it is rather according to the purpose of his will. This is the fourth characteristic which recommends the blessing to us, for it springs from pure love. Predestination, according to [how man] conceives it, presupposes election, and election love. A twofold cause of this immense blessing is designated here. One is the efficient cause— which is the simple will of God—according to the purpose of his will. “Therefore, he has mercy on whomever he wills; and whomever he wills he hardens” (Rom. 9:18). “Of his own will he has given us birth by the word of truth (Jam. 1:18). Unto the praise of the glory of his grace specifies the final cause which is that we may praise and know the goodness of God. Once again this eminent blessing is recommended inasmuch as the homage [it results in] is in accord with itself. For the [efficient] cause of divine predestination is simply the will of God, while the end is a knowledge of his goodness.
Whence it should be realized that Gods will in no way has a cause but is the first cause of everything else. Nevertheless, a certain motive can be assigned to it in two ways. On the part of the one willing, the motive for the divine will is his own goodness which is the object of the divine will, moving it to act. Hence, the reason for everything that God wills is his own goodness: “Yahweh has made everything for his own purpose” (Prov. 16:4). On the side of what is willed, however, some created existent can be a motive for the divine will; for example, when he wills to crown Peter because he has fought well (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7-8). But this latter is not the cause of [God’s] willing; rather it is a cause of it happening the way it did.
Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged how, in the realm of what is willed, effects are a motive for the divine will in such a way that a prior effect is the reason for a later one. But when the primary effect [i.e., the perfection of the Universe] is arrived at, no further reason can be given for that effect except the divine will. For instance, God wills that men should have hands that they might be of service to his mind; and [he wills] man to possess a mind since he wills him to be a man; and he wills man to exist for the sake of the perfection of the Universe. Now since this is what is primarily effected in creation, no further reason for the Universe can be assigned within the domain of creatures themselves; [it lies] rather within the domain of the Creator, which is the Divine Will.
In this perspective, neither can predestination find any reason on the part of the creature but only on the part of God. For there are two effects of predestination, grace and glory. Within the realm of what is willed [by God], grace can be identified as a reason for the effects which are oriented towards glory. For example, God crowned Peter because he fought well, and he did this because he was strengthened in grace. But no reason for the grace, as a primary effect, can be found on the part of man himself which would also be the reason for predestination. This would be to assert that the source of good works was in man by himself and not by grace. Such was the heretical teaching of the Pelagians who held that the source of good works exists within ourselves. Thus it is evident that the reason for predestination is the will of God alone, on account of which the Apostle says according to the purpose of his will.
To understand how God creates everything and wills it because of his own goodness, it should be realized that someone can work for an end in two ways. [A person may act] either in order to attain an end, as the sick take medicine to regain their health; or [he may act] out of a love of spreading the end, as a doctor will work to communicate health to others. But God needs absolutely nothing external to himself, according to Psalm 16 (2): “Yahweh, you are my Lord; you are my Good; there is none above you. [Vul: you have no need of my goods].” Therefore, when it is said that God wills and performs everything on account of his own goodness, this should not be understood as though he acted in order to confer goodness on himself but rather to communicate goodness to others.
This divine goodness is properly communicated to rational creatures in order that the rational creature himself might know it. Thus, everything that God performs in reference to rational creatures is for his own praise and glory, according to Isaiah 43 (7): “Everyone called by my name, whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed and made” so that he may know what goodness is, and in this knowledge praise it. The Apostle thus adds unto the praise of the glory of his grace, that man might realize how much God must be praised and glorified.
Nor does he say “unto the praise of justice.” For justice enters into the picture only where a debt is present or is to be returned. But for man to be predestined to eternal life is not due to him—as was said, it is a grace given in perfect freedom. Nor does he simply say of the glory, but annexes of his grace as though it were of a glorious grace. And grace is just this; the greatness of grace is revealed in that it consists in the greatness of glory. [Its grandeur is shown] also in the way it is bestowed; for he gives it without any preceding merits when men are unworthy of it. “God proves his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”; and a little further on, “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:8 & 10).
By now it must be clear how divine predestination neither has nor can have any cause but the will of God alone. This, in turn, reveals how the only motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate the divine goodness to others.
with which he graced us in the Beloved!
In him we possess freedom, through his blood, and forgiveness of our lapses.
So rich is God’s grace
6b. In which he hath graced us in his beloved Son.
7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Now the Apostle writes of the fourth blessing (cf. 1:3), that of becoming pleasing [to God] through the gift of grace. Regarding this he does two things:
First, he touches on the giving of this blessing.
Secondly, he shows the manner and conditions of its bestowal (1:7).
Hence he first asserts: We are predestined unto the adoption of sons, for the praise of the glory of his grace—that grace, I say, in which he hath graced us in his beloved Son. In this respect, it should be noted that to be loved by someone is identical to being pleasing to him. For he is pleasing to ine whom I love. Now, since God loved us from eternity—he chose us before the foundation of the world in love, as has been said (1:4)—how has he made us pleasing to himself in time? A reply is that those whom he loves eternally in himself, he renders pleasing [to himself] in time according as they exist in their own natures. The former [his love] is from eternity and is not created, the latter happens in time and is said to come into being. Hence the Apostle says that he hath graced us, that is, made us pleasing that we should be worthy of his love. “See what love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; ans so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).
Two types of grace are customarily distinguished: charismatic grace freely given without being merited—“And, if by grace, it is now not by works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” (Rom. 11:6)—and sanctifying grace which makes us pleasing and acceptable to God. The latter is the grace dealt with here.
Notice how persons can be loved for the sake of others, or for their own sake. For when I love someone very much, I love him and whatever belongs to him. We are loved by God, not for what we are in ourselves, but in him who by himself is beloved of the Father. Thus the Apostle adds in his beloved Son on account of whom he loves us and to the degree that we are like him. For love is based on similarity: “Every beast loves its like: so also every man his neighbor” (Sir. 13:15). By his own nature, the Son is similar to the Father, he is beloved before all else and essentially. Hence he is naturally, and in a most excellent way, loved by the Father. We, on the other hand, are sons through adoption to the degree that we are conformed to his Son; in this way we enjoy a certain participation in the divine love. “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. He who believes in the Son has life everlasting” (Jn. 3:35-36). “He has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col. 1: 13).
Next (1:7), he sets down the way itself [that grace is given]. Concerning this he does two things:
First, the part of Christ in the way it is given.
Secondly, the part of God in it, at according to the riches of his grace ( 1: 7b).
On the part of Christ he writes of two ways through which Christ has made us pleasing [to God]. For within us there exists two antagonisms to the divine good pleasure, the stains of sin and the punishing injuries [sin inflicts]. justice is as opposed to sin as life is to death, so that through sin, having departed from our likeness to God, we cease being pleasing to God. But through Christ he has made us pleasing. First, indeed, by abolishing the punishment; and in reference to this he says that in Christ we have redemption from the slavery of sin. “You know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). “You have redeemed [us] for God, by thy blood” (Apoc. 5:9).
Secondly, we are said to be redeemed because through Christ we are freed from a slavery in which we were caught as a result of sin without ourselves being capable of fully making satisfaction. By dying for us, Christ has satisfied the Father and thus the penalty of sin was abolished. Whence he says unto the remission of sins. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). “It is written that Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that penance and remission of sins should be preached in his name” (Lk. 24:46-47).
The way [we are blessed with grace] on God’s part is set down in according to the riches of his grace. As though he said: In making us pleasing to himself, God not only forgave us our sins, but be gave his own Son to make reparation on our behalf. This was from an overflowing graciousness by which he willed to preserve the human race’s honor while, as though in justice, willing men to be freed from the slavery of sin and death through the death of his own Son. Thus, in saying according to the riches of his grace he seems to state: That we were redeemed and made pleasing [to God] through the satisfaction of his Son comes from an overflowing grace and mercy since mercy and compassion are bestowed on those having no claim to it.
In what has been said so far we have followed the interpretation of a Gloss which seems to be a far-fetched exposition since the same idea expressed in one phrase occurs in another. He chose us is the same as to say he predestinated us. And the same idea is expressed in that we should be holy and unspotted as in unto the adoption of children.
In this regard it should be known that the customary procedure of the Apostle, when speaking of a difficult subject, is to explain what went before by what immediately follows. This is not verbal proliferation but an exposition; and this is the method the Apostle uses here. Retaining the same import of the words, we may divide it differently from the beginning (v. 3) into three sections:
First, the Apostle gives thanks in Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, he mentions conjointly the bestowal of all blessings in who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ.
Thirdly, he gives a clear expression of the divine blessings in particular (v. 4 ff.).
This latter is divided into two parts:
First, he distinctly formulates the blessings.
Secondly, he interprets them (v. 5).
He formulates the blessings:
First, as regards election, in as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
Secondly, as regards its consequences, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight.
First, he treats of election, for there are two types of election, one involving a present justification and another an eternal predestination. Concerning the first John 6 (71) states: “Have not I chosen you twelve? And one of you is a devil?” But this is not what the Apostle refers to since it did not occur before the foundation of the world. So he immediately clarifies what he means, that it is the second type, eternal predestination. Thus he says Who hath predestinated us... (v. 5). As he said in Christ (v. 3) to signify that we are assimilated and conformed to Christ in proportion as we are [God’s] adopted children, so he adds unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ. What he means by in charity he explains when he says In whom we have redemption through his blood. As though he affirmed: We have, etc. Unspotted is expounded by unto the remission of sins; while in his sight is explained by unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
which he lavished on us with perfect wisdom and insight.
God has made known to us the secret of his decision:
– for his favor he first placed on Christ to administer the completion of the ages –
to bring everything together under Christ as head, all in heaven and all on earth.
[Read: Marcus Barth, “Mystery or secret?” (p. 123), “Christ the administrator” (p. 127), “Days of fulfillment” (p. 128).]
8 Which hath superabounded in us, in all wisdom and prudence,
9 That he might make known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in him,
10 In the dispensation of the fulness of times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in him.
[Thomas mistakenly restricts this section to the Apostles, but he is right in affirming the lofty role of the Apostles. In 2 Cor 3 Paul compares his ministry with that of Moses and ascribes to his own vocation a surpassing glory.]
Having set down the blessings generally given to all, the Apostle now turns to those favors especially granted to the Apostles. This section is divided into two parts:
First, be proposes the special blessings given the Apostles.
Secondly, he indicates their cause ( 1: 11 ).
In reference to the first he does three things: He sets down the particular blessings of the Apostles:
First, as regards the excellence of their wisdom.
Secondly, as regards a unique revelation of the hidden mystery (1:9a).
Thirdly, he suggests what this mystery is (1:9b-10).
He first states: According to the riches of his grace all the faithful together, both you and we, possess redemption and the remission of sins through the blood of Christ. This grace has superabounded in us who, [as Apostles], have it more fully than others. Whence the rashness—not to say error—of those who dare equate the grace and glory of some saints with that of the Apostles. For this passage openly asserts that the Apostles are more fully graced than the other saints, except for Christ and his Virgin Mother. However, should it be claimed that other saints were able to merit as much as the Apostles merited, and consequently would have as much grace, it must be said that this would be a good argument if grace was given according to merits—but if that were the case, “grace is no more grace” (Rom. 11:6).
Greater dignity was preordained by God to some saints, and hence he infused grace more abundantly into them. For example, he imparted a unique grace to Christ as man when he assumed [the humanity] into the unity of the [Second] Person. He endowed with special graces in both her body and soul, the glorious Virgin Mary whom he chose to be his mother. Similarly, those God called to a unique dignity, the Apostles, were gifted with a corresponding favor of grace. Thus the Apostle states in Romans 8 (23): “ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit.” And a Gloss comments: “their share is first in time and more copious than others.” What rashness, therefore, to put some later saint on the same level with the Apostles.
God’s grace has superabounded in the Apostles, [enriching them] with all wisdom. For the Apostles are set over the Church to be her pastors: “And I will give you pastors according to my own heart: and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine” (Jer. 3:15). Two qualities should characterize pastors: a profound knowledge of divine truths and an assiduous fulfillment of religious actions. They must teach those trusted to them the true faith; this requires that wisdom which consists in a knowledge of the divine, concerning which he remarks in all wisdom. “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay” (Lk. 21:15). They also need prudence to guide their subjects in external and temporal affairs: “Be therefore prudent as serpents and simple as doves” (Mt. 10:16). Thus the special blessing of wisdom given to the Apostles is clearly expressed.
The reception of an uncommon revelation is their next blessing, that he might make known unto us the mystery of his will. As if he had said: Our wisdom does not consist in discovering the natures of material realities, nor the course of the stars, or such like; rather, it concerns Christ alone. “I decided not to know any thing among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Hence he says that he might make known the mystery, that is, the sacred secret, hidden from the beginning, the mystery of the Incarnation. He adds the cause of this hidden mystery when he says his will. Future events are known only if their causes are; for example, we can determine a future eclipse only by knowing what causes an eclipse.
Now the mystery of the Incarnation has God’s will as its cause since he willed to become incarnate on account of his intense love for men: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16). Yet God’s will is more hidden than anything else: “No one knows what pertains to God, but the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). So, the cause of the Incarnation was concealed from everyone except those to whom God revealed it through the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle mentions: “God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). Hence he affirms that he might make known the mystery which is a sacred secret—a secret because it is of his will. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the wise and clever and revealing them to little children” (Mt. 11:25). “The mystery, hidden from ages and generations, and now made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known the riches of the glory of this mystery.” (Col. 1:26-27).
He then explains something about this mystery (vv. 9-10). His thought is involved and should be construed as: that he might make known unto us the mystery of his will, which mystery is to re-establish all things in Christ, that is, through Christ. All, namely, that are in heaven and on earth. This re-establishment in Christ must be in the dispensation of the fulness of times which, in turn, is according to his good pleasure. Thus, three aspects of the mystery are touched on; the mystery’s cause, the temporal fitness [of its appearance], and its purpose.
According to his good pleasure briefly sums up the cause. Although whatever pleases God is good, goodness is preeminently (antonomostice) suited to God’s pleasure in this [effecting of the Incarnation] because through it we are led to perfectly enjoy goodness. As Psalm 146 (11) declares: “Yahweh is pleased with those who fear him, who rely on his strength”; and Romans 12 (2): “that you may prove what is the good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God.”
The suitable time was in that dispensation of the fulness of times which Galatians 4 (4-5) speaks of: “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” The pointless problem pagans used to raise is thus brushed aside by the Apostle. For as Job 24 (1) remarks: “Why are times not hidden from Shaddai? [Vul: Times are not hidden from the Almighty.]” He orders and arranges everything, including time; for he manages and accommodates the passage of time to those events which he wills to exist at the right moment. Just as other events effected by him bad their specified time, likewise he eternally preordained a time for the mystery of the Incarnation. This time, a Gloss points out, occurred after man was convinced of his own stupidity before the written [Mosaic] Law, when he worshiped creatures instead of the Creator—“For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22)—and of his own absolute inability to live up to the prescriptions of the written Law. Thus men, no longer trusting in their own wisdom and power, would not consider Christ’s advent as unimportant. Weak, and to a certain extent ignorant, they would eagerly desire the Christ.
The mystery’s purpose is to re-establish all things. Inasmuch as everything is made for mankind, everything would be re-established [when man was redeemed]: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that had fallen; I will close up its breaches and rebuild it as long ago” (Am. 9:11). Everything that is in heaven, namely, the angels. Christ did not die for the angels, but in redeeming mankind “he shall fill the ruins” (Ps. 109:6) left by the sin of the angels. Beware of the error Origen fell into, as if the damned angels were to be redeemed through Christ; this was only a figment of his imagination. And what is on earth [will be re-established in Christ] insofar as he reconciles heavenly and earthly realities: “Making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven” (Col. 1:20). This must be understood in reference to the sufficiency [of his redeeming actions], even though, with respect to its efficacy, everything will not be re-established.
As resolved by him who carries out all things after his will and decision, we [Jews] were first designated and appropriated in the Messiah. We, the first to set our hope upon the Messiah, were to become a praise of God’s glory.
[Read: Marcus Barth on verse 11 (“lot”, p. 92), “Jews and Gentiles” (p. 130).]
11 In whom we also are called by lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will; ,
12 That we may be unto the praise of his glory; we who before hoped in Christ.
Previously the Apostle wrote of how he and the other Apostles received an abundance of grace from Christ (1:8). Lest anyone imagine they had it coming to them the Apostle quickly affirms that they were called by God gratuitously, not for their personal merits. This section is divided into three parts:
First, the gratuity of the [Apostolic] call.
Secondly, God’s freedom in predestination (1:11b).
Thirdly, what is the end of both [vocation and pre destination] (1: 12).
I have indicated, he says, that grace has superabounded in us and that everything has been re-established in Christ. The same Christ In whom we also are called by lot, not by our own merits but by a divine choice: “Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12) because “my lots are in thy hands” (Ps. 30:16).
To understand this it should be realized that many human events which seem to occur by fate and chance, in reality are arranged according to divine providence. Casting, lots is no more than a search for divine guidance in contingent and human affairs. Augustine, commenting on Psalm 30 (16), teaches that casting lots is not an evil but a means of discovering God’s will in a doubtful issue.
Nonetheless, three sins must be avoided. First, is superstition; for any religion which is shallow and immoral is superstition. The forbidden sin of superstition would be incurred when the casting of lots is performed in league with the devil. For instance, Ezechiel 21 (26) relates how: “the king of Babylon stood in the highway, at the head of two ways, seeking divination, shuffling arrows: he consulted the idols and looked at the liver.” The shuffling of the arrows is related to sortilege, and the questioning of idols belongs to superstition. Sortilege, moreover, is condemmed there (Ez. 21) among sins pertaining to superstition.
Secondly, the sin of tempting God must be shunned. As long as a man can discover and accomplish by himself what he ought to do, he tempts God if he resorts to lots, or any other such method, to ascertain what he should do. Only when unavoidably threatened by situations where one is powerless by himself can a man licitly resort to [extraordinary ways of] questioning God concerning what he must do. “But as we know not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to you” (2 Par. 20:12). Vanity is the third sin. It is committed if we inquire into futile matters not pertaining to us; for example, contingent events in the future. “It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Ac. 1:7).
Relative to this [purpose for which they are cast], there are three types of lots: some are divisory, others are consultatory, while still others are divinatory.
Divisory lots are those which people cast when they are dividing an inheritance and cannot agree. Using a certain slip of paper, or the like they declare: Whoever it will fall to shall have this part of the inheritance. Such lots can be cast lawfully: “The lot puts an end to disputes, and decides between powerful contenders” (Prov. 18:18) when they wish to divide in this way.
Consultatory lots are used when someone doubts what he should do and consults God by casting lots. Jonas 1 (7) recounts how, when the great storm came upon them at sea, they cast lots to seek information from God that they might know for whose sin the tempest had occurred. This method is licit, especially in necessities and in the elections of secular rulers. Hence, men will make small wax balls called “bussuli,” of which some contain slips of paper and others none. Whoever draws a “bussulus” with the paper inside has a voice in the election. This was done also, previous to the Holy Spirit’s coming, in spiritual elections, evidenced in the choice of Mathias by lot (Ac. 1:26). Now that the Holy Spirit has come, however, it is no longer lawful in these elections since making. use of them would be an insult to the Holy Spirit. It must be believed, after all, that the Holy Spirit will provide his Church with good pastors. After the Holy Spirit’s advent, therefore, when the Apostles chose the seven deacons (cf. Ac. 6), they did not cast lots. Thus, this method is not lawful in any ecclesiastical election.
Divinatory lots augur future events reserved to the divine knowledge alone. They always are colored by vainglory, nor can they be resorted to without a sinful curiosity.
Lots, therefore, are nothing other than a questioning concerning realities whose occurrence depends on the divine will. Since grace depends on the divine will alone, the grace of divine election is termed a lot. For God, as though by lot, according to his hidden providence, calls men through an inner grace and not on account of anyone’s merits.
Next, when he says predestined according to his purpose, he writes of the free predestination of God concerning which Romans 8 (30) deals: “And those he predestinated he has also called.” The reason for this predestination is not our merits but the will of God alone, on account of which he adds according to the purpose of him. “And we know that to those who love God, all things work together unto good; to those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
He approves of what he has predestined according to his purpose since not only this, but also everything else that God does he worketh according to the counsel of his will. “Whatever he wills Yahwe does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the depths” (Ps. 135:6). “My counsel shall stand, and what I like I shall do” (Is. 46: 10). He did not say “according to his will” lest you would believe it was irrational, but according to the counsel of his will. This means, according to his will which arises from reason; not that reason here implies any transition in his thoughts, it rather indicates a certain and deliberate will.
Finally, he briefly mentions the end of one’s predestination and vocation, namely, the praise of God. Thus he states that we may be unto the praise of his glory, we who before hoped in Christ. Through us, who believe in Christ, the glory of God is extolled. “The mountains and hills shall sing praise before you” (Is. 55:12). The praise of God’s glory, as Ambrose remarks, occurs when many persons are won over to the faith, as a doctor’s glory is in a large clientele and their cure. “You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for everlasting joy and mercy” (Sir. 2:9).
You [Gentiles] too are [included] in him. For you have heard the true word, the message that saves you. And after you came to faith you, too, have been sealed with his seal, the promised Holy Spirit. He is the guarantee of what we shall inherit [to vouch] for the liberation of God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
13 In whom you also, after you had heard the word of truth, the of your salvation, in whom also believing, you were signed with the holy Spirit of promise.
14 Who is the pledge of our inheritance, unto the redemption of acquisition, unto the praise of his glory.
Once the Apostle has enumerated the blessings offered generally to all the faithful, then those especially given the Apostles (1:8), he begins to recount those granted to the Ephesians themselves. This section is divided into two parts:
First, he sets down the favors shown them.
Secondly, he describes his feelings aroused by the favors (1:15).
The first is divided into three parts according to the three blessings granted to them:
First, the blessing of preaching.
Secondly, the blessing of conversion to the faith (1:13).
Thirdly, the blessing of justification ( 1: 13-14).
In reference to the first point he says: Christ in whom you also, after you had heard, that is, by whose favor and power you have heard the proclamation of the word of truth since Christ himself has sent those who preach it to you. “How shall they believe him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent?... Faith, then, comes by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:14-15, 17). They hear through the blessing of him who sends them the preachers: “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk. 11: 28).
The Apostle mentions the threefold recommendation of this preached word. It is, first of all, true; a word of truth. Indeed, it could be nothing else since its source is Christ concerning whom John 17 (17) states: “Your word is truth.” And James 1 (18): “For of his own will he has begotten us by the word of truth.” Secondly, it is a proclamation of good news. Hence he says the gospel: it announces the highest good and eternal life. “Word of faith” is preeminently (antonomastice) applicable to the Gospel as the communication of the highest good. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news and preaches salvation... Go up on a high mountain, lady-messenger of Sion (Is. 52:7; 40:9). This refers to future goods. The present goods are what describe and recommend [Christian preaching] in the third place, for it saves. Thus he says of your salvation; if believed in, it gives salvation. “I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). “Now I make known unto you, brothers, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand, by which also you are saved” (1 Cor. 15:1).
Regarding the blessing of conversion to the faith, he states in whom, namely, Christ, by whose action you also believing, were signed. This blessing is applied to faith since faith is necessary for those who listen. In vain would anyone listen to the word of truth if he did not believe, and the believing itself is through Christ. “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Concerning the blessing of justification he mentions that you were signed with the Holy Spirit who was given to you. Concerning this [Spirit] three things are said; he is a sign, the spirit of the promise, and the pledge of our inheritance.
He is a sign inasmuch as through him charity is infused into our hearts, thereby distinguishing us from those who are not the children of God. Relating to this be says you were signed, set apart from Satan’s fold. “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God; whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Just as men brand a mark on their own herds to differentiate them from others, so the Lord willed to seal his own flock, his people, with a spiritual sign. The Lord had the Jews as his own people in the Old Testament. “And you, my flocks, the flocks of my pastures are men” (Ez. 34:31 ). “And we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:7). This flock was fed on the earthly pastures of material teachings and temporal goods: “If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good things of the land” (Is. 1:19). The Lord, therefore, differentiated and set them apart from others by means of the bodily sign of circumcision. “And my covenant shall be in your flesh” (Gen. 17:13); before this it says, “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, that it may be for a sign of the covenant between me and you” (Gen. 17:11).
In the New Testament the flock he had is the Christian people: “You have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25). “My sheep hear my voice; and I know them; and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). This flock is fed on the pastures of spiritual doctrine and spiritual favors; hence the Lord differentiated it from others by a spiritual sign. This is the Holy Spirit through whom those who are of Christ are distinguished from the others who do not belong to him. But since the Holy Spirit is love, he is given to someone when that person is made a lover of God and neighbor. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Therefore, the distinctive sign is charity which comes from the Holy Spirit: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (Jn. 13:35). The Holy Spirit is he by whom we are signed.
The Spirit is described as a promise for three reasons. First, he is promised to those who believe: “I will put a new spirit within you... And I will give you a new spirit” (Ez. 36:26, 37:6). Secondly, he is given with a certain promise, by the very fact that he is given to us we become the children of God. For through the Holy Spirit we are made one with Christ: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of God, does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). As a result of being made adopted children of God, we have the promise of an eternal inheritance since “if sons, heirs also” (Rom. 8:17).
Thirdly, he is termed a pledge inasmuch as he makes us certain of the promised inheritance. Adopting us into the children of God, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of promise who also is the seal of the promise yet to be attained.
However, as is mentioned in a Gloss, a variant reading has who is the earnest of our inheritance, and perhaps this is a better rendering. For a pledge differs from the object in place of which it is given, and it must be returned once he who has received the pledge obtains the object due him. An earnest, however, does not differ from the object in place of which it is given, nor is it returned since it is a partial payment of the price itself, which is not to be withdrawn but completed. God communicates charity to us as a pledge, through the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of truth and love. Hence, this is nothing else than an individual and imperfect participation in the divine charity and love; it must not be withdrawn but brought to perfection. More fittingly, therefore, it is referred to as an earnest rather than as a pledge.
Nevertheless, it can also be called a pledge. For through the Holy Spirit God grants us a variety of gifts. Some of these will remain in the fatherland, as charity which “never comes to an end” (1 Cor. 13:8); while others will not last on account of their imperfection, such as faith and hope “which shall be done away” with (ibid., v. 10). Hence, the Spirit is called an earnest in reference to what will remain, and a pledge with respect to what will be done away with.
He adds the purpose for which we are signed as unto the redemption. For when a man buys new animals and adds them to his flock, he puts a mark on them to the effect that he has purchased them. Now Christ has purchased a people from the Gentiles. “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring. And they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16). And on them he imprints a sign of purchase: “A holy nation, a purchased people” (1 Pet. 2:9) “which he has purchased with his own blood” (Ac. 20:28).
Christ acquired this people, not because they never were his, but because they previously belonged to him and yet, by sinning, had sold themselves into a diabolical slavery which oppressed them. So it does not simply state that he acquired them but adds unto redemption, as though to say: You are not strictly a new acquisition; you are re-purchased from the slavery of the devil through his blood. “You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Christ purchased us, therefore, through a redemption; not that this added anything to God since he needs none of our goods. “If you are rigtheous, what do you give him [God], or what does he receive of thy hand?” (Job 35:7). The purpose for which Christ acquired us is unto the praise of his glory, that God himself be praised since “everyone who is called by my name, I have created him for my glory” (Is. 43:7).
Therefore, after hearing of the faithfulness [shown] among you to the Lord Jesus and (of the love) toward all the saints, I, for my part, never cease to give thanks for you. When mentioning you in my prayers [I ask] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the all-glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him. [I ask] that he illumine the eyes of your hearts so that you may become aware of the hope to which he is calling you, what glorious riches are to be inherited among the saints, and how exceedingly great is his power over us believers.
15 Wherefore, I also, hearing of your faith that is in the Lord Jesus and of your love towards all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making commemoration of you in my prayers,
17- That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of him;
18 The eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the hope is of his calling and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19a And what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us, who believe.
After enumerating the blessings conferred on the Ephesians through Christ (1:13), the Apostle now reveals how his affection for them has grown. This section is divided into three parts:
First, he begins by relating the good reports he has heard concerning them.
Secondly, he gives the thanks due for the blessings they have received ( 1: 16a).
Thirdly, he adds a prayer for future blessings (1: 16b-19a).
There were two good things which he heard about them. One was their faith by which they were properly orientated toward God; regarding this he remarked: Wherefore, I also, hearing of your faith that is in the Lord Jesus. Indeed, faith makes God dwell in man: “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts” (Eph. 3:17). Again, it purifies hearts: “purifying their hearts by faith” (Ac. 15:9). Moreover, it justifies without recourse to the Law: “for we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). The second good is love by which they are properly orientated toward their neighbor; in reference to this he says and of your love consisting in works of charity. This love is a spirittial sign that a man is a disciple of Christ: “A new commandment I give you: that you love one another, as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (Jn. 13:34-35). This love, I say, is towards all the saints. For everyone whom we love with charity, we ought to love either because they are holy or in order that they become holy. “While we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10).
Next (1:16a), the Apostle gives thanks for these goods and blessings he has heard about, saying I cease not to give thanks for you. On the contrary, however, he could not have continually offered thanks for them. I reply. In saying I do not cease, the Apostle means at the required times; or, I do not cease because my attitude of thanksgiving for you is withmit intermission habitually with me. “We do not cease to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9). “I remember you constantly, always in my prayers making request” (Rom. 1:9-10).
Consequently, the Apostle prays for the blessings that must be given them in the future. This has three divisions:
First, he sets down certain ones that he asks for them.
Secondly, he explains these ( 1: 17b-19a).
Thirdly, he discloses the exemplar and form of these blessings (1: 19b ff.).
In regard to the first he says: Not only do I give thanks for past benefits which you have received and for the good reports concerning you, but I also pray that, by all means, these increase in the future, making commemoration of you in my prayers in behalf of these to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.
It must be acknowledged, at this point, that our Lord Jesus Christ is both God and man. Insofar as be is man, be is related to God, since he is composed of body and soul, both of which, being creatures, are necessarily related to God. But according as he is God, he is related to the Father. “I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God” (Jn. 20:17). Likewise, as God he is the glory of the Father: “who, being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance” (Heb. 1:3). He is also our glory because he himself is life eternal: “We are in his true Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20). Therefore, he states the God of our Lord Jesus Christ in relation to him as man, and his Father in reference to him as God. I say the Father of glory, that is, of Christ who is his glory. “A wise son makes his father glad [Vul: is the glory of the father]” (Prov. 10:1); and of our glory, inasmuch as he communicates glory to all.
Then he writes down the two things he asks for: the spirit of wisdom and of revelation. It must be realized here that certain gifts are common to all the saints and are necessary for salvation, such as faith, hope and charity. These they already possessed, as is evident. Then there are other special gifts; be prays that they receive these. First is the gift of wisdom when be says the spirit of wisdom whom no one can bestow except God: “Who ever knew your counsel, unless you had given wisdom, and sent thy Holy Spirit from above” (Wis. 9:17). The second gift prayed for is that of understanding which consists in the revelation of spiritual mysteries that God alone can give: “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan. 2:28).
Next, he explains what he asks for:
First, what pertains to the gift of wisdom.
Secondly, what pertains to the gift of understanding (1: 18b).
To the gift of wisdom belongs the knowledge of divine realities. Hence, to ask for the gift of wisdom is to ask that they enjoy a knowledge of God. He begs for this in saying in the knowledge of him, as if to say: I ask that, through the spirit of wisdom, you may have the eyes of your heart enlightened in a clearer knowledge of God. “Look at me, answer me, Yahweh my God! Enlighten my eyes; turn away the sleep of death” (Ps. 12:4). This is the opposite of those whose eyes are enlightened only with respect to temporal reality when it is more necessary and more glorious to know God. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom... and let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let anyone who boasts glory in this, that he understands and knows me” (Jer. 9:23-24).
Three aspects pertain to the gift of understanding, one of which has reference to the present life, and two to the future. Hope, which is necessary for salvation, belongs to the present condition: “for we are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24). Concerning this he says that you may know what, that is, how great the hope is of his calling, meaning the virtue of hope and what an immense reality it is concerned with. This [hope] is of the utmost importance because it concerns the greatest realities: “He hath given us a new birth to a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). It is also the strongest of the virtues: “that we who have fled for refuge may have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. This we have as a sure and firm anchor of the soul, which enters [the sanctuary] behind the veil” (Heb. 6:18-19).
Yet, since what we hope for concerns the future life, the other two aspects [of the gift of understanding] pertain to the future. One, the essential reward, is common to all the just; regarding which he says what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Here he writes down four characteristics of those gifts. First, they are most abundant, which he implies in riches. “He who obeys me will dwell secure, and be at ease without fear of evil” (Prov. 1:33); “Glory and wealth shall be in his house” (Ps. 112:3); “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity” (Prov. 8:18). Secondly, they have the greatest clarity, regarding which he says of glory, “Glory, honor and peace to everyone who does good” (Rom. 2:10). Thirdly, they are the most enduring, in reference to which he states of his inheritance, for what is hereditary is possessed permanently. “His goods will be established” (Ecclus. 31:11); “Yahweh, you have portioned my cup of smooth wine; you have cast my lot. The lines have fallen on rich land for me; the Most High has marked out my estate.” (Ps. 16:5). Fourthly, he indicates that they will be most profound, as in the saints. “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18); “for this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).
The other aspect [of the gift of understanding] which be sets down in reference to the future glory pertains especially to the Apostles. Hence he asks that you may know... what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us, the Apostles. He seems to say: Although he bestows the riches of his glory abundantly on all the saints, he grants them in an exceedingly great measure to the Apostles. For the greatness of a power is gauged by what it does. Hence, the more the divine power accomplishes in someone, the more is that divine power revealed there—even though it is one and undivided in itself. Therefore, since a greater effect of the divine power is present in the Apostles, the greatness of this power will reside in them.
He shows what this greater effect present in them is by saying we who believe; we who are the first-fruits among those who believe. “We also believe. For which cause we speak also, knowing that he who raised up Jesus will raise us up also with Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:13). “I know whom I have believed and I am certain that he is able to keep what I have committed unto him until the last day” (2 Tim. 1: 12).
Those among you, therefore, through whom others are taught and called to the faith—such as the doctors [of the sacred sciences]—will be rewarded in a preeminent way. Thus a Gloss states how “the great doctors will enjoy a certain increase in glory above that commonly possessed by all.” For the same reason, in Daniel 12 (3), the educated are likened to the brightness of the sky, while the doctors are the stars themselves: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky: and those who turn many to justice, as stars for all eternity.”
For that mighty strength is at work which God exerted in the Messiah when:
He has raised him from the dead.
He has enthroned him at his right hand in the heavens
above every government and authority,
power and dominion, and any title bestowed,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.
[Read Marcus Barth, “Principalities, Powers, and All things” (p. 170).]
19b According to the operation of the might of his power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, raising him up from the dead and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.
Once he has listed the blessings which he hopes will be granted to the Ephesians in the future (1:16 ff.), the Apostle discusses the exemplar and form of those benefits. As the life of Christ is the model and form of our justice, so Christ’s glory and exultation is the form and exemplar of our glory and exaltation. Here the Apostle makes two points:
First, he proposes in a general manner the form of our exaltation with its blessings and gifts.
Secondly, he discusses it in detail (1:20b ff.).
The divine activity in Christ is the form and exemplar of the divine activity in us. In reference to this he states according to the operation, that is, in the likeness of the operation, of the might of his power, meaning the virtuous power of God, which he wrought in Christ exalting him who is the head. Understand that in this way he will mightily act in us. “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transfigure our wretched body to be like his glorious body by the power which enables him to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). In Scripture we frequently read that we will be exalted in the likeness of Christ’s exaltation. For example, Romans 8 (17): “...provided we suffer with him, so as also to be glorified with him.” Or the Apocalypse 3 (21): “He who conquers I will grant him to sit with me in my throne; as I myself have conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
As a result, he specifies the form and exemplar in more detail, showing what pertains to the exaltation of Christ while speaking of him inasmuch as he is man (v. 20b ff.). He writes of three favors in the exaltation of Christ:
First, the transition from death to life, by raising him up from the dead.
Secondly, the exaltation to the utmost heights of glory, setting him on his right hand... (1:20b-21).
Thirdly, an elevation to the greatest of power, and he hath subjected all things under his feet... (1:22-23).
Concerning the first he states that it was according to the operation which God the Father wrought in Christ by the same power which he shares with Christ. Christ both restored himself to life and was restored to life by the Father. “And, if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you; he that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8: 11).
Setting him on his right hand refers to the second [element in Christ’s exaltation]. This height of glory can be viewed in three perspectives: in its relation to God, to material creatures, and to spiritual creatures. Considered in relation to God, he is seated at his right hand; this is not to be thought of as a bodily organ—“God is a Spirit” (Jn. 4:24)—but as a metaphorical way of speaking. The right hand is taken as a nobler and stronger part of man; so when we say that Christ Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, it should be understood that according to his humanity he partakes of the Father’s choicest blessings, and according to his divinity it is understood as equality with the Father. “Yahweh spoke to my lord: Take the throne at my right” (Ps. 109: 1 ); and the last chapter of Mark (16:19): “And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God.”
In heavenly places defines Christ’s relation to material creatures. For the heavenly bodies occupy the highest place in comparison to the other bodies; yet, “He who descended is he who also ascended above all the heavens” (Eph. 4:10). In relation to spiritual creatures, he first mentions that Christ is exalted over certain specific ones, and secondly, over all of them generally (1:21b).
To understand this, note that there are nine ranks of angels, of which the Apostle here (1:21a) mentions only the four middle ranks. Above these are the three superior ranks of the Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. Below them are the two lower ranks of the Archangels and the Angels. These nine ranks are also differentiated into three hierarchies, or sacred authorities [principatus], each of which embraces three ranks.
All the doctors agree in assigning the ranks of the First Hierarchy. The highest rank is the Seraphim, second are the Cherubim, third are the Thrones. In assigning the ranks among the Middle and Lower Hierarchies, however, Dionysius and Gregory disagree. Dionysius, [starting from the highest] and going down, places the Dominions as first in the Middle Hierarchy, the Virtues second, and the Powers third. In the first rank of the Lower Hierarchy he puts the Principalities, second are the Archangels and third are the Angels. This listing of the ranks is in accord with the present text where the Apostle begins, in an ascending order, from the first rank of Hierarchy, the seventh [down from the Seraphim].
Gregory, on the other hand, arranges them differently. He places the Principalities between the Dominions and the Powers, which is the second rank of the Middle Hierarchy; while he puts the Virtues between the Powers and the Archangels, which is the first rank of the Lower Hierarchy. This arrangement is supported by the Apostle’s words in Colossians 1 (16): “For in him [Christ] were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers,” where he enumerates those ranks in a descending order. Reserving Gregory’s classification until we lecture on the letter to the Colossians, for the present we will follow Dionysius’ approach since it accords with the text at hand.
To understand this, it should be realized that the structure of reality can be considered in three ways:
First, according as it is present in the First Cause of everything’ God.
Secondly, according as it is in the universal causes.
Thirdly, according to the arrangement of individual causes.
Since everything that happens among creatures occurs with the assistance of the angels, the three angelic hierarchies are distinguished according to the threefold way of conceiving the structure of reality. To one it belongs to grasp the intelligible patterns of things in the very summit of reality, God; it pertains to another to grasp the intelligible patterns of reality in the universal causes; while still another [understands these patterns] in the individual causes. For the higher the angelic minds are, the more do they receive divine illumination with greater universality. Therefore, the governance of reality in relation to God pertains to the First Hierarchy. On this account, the ranks of that hierarchy are named with reference to God. The Seraphim are so called because they are burning with love and through it are united to God. The Cherubim are, as it were, radiant inasmuch as they possess a supereminent knowledge of divine mysteries. The Thrones are so termed inasmuch as in them God carries out his judgments. Of these three ranks the Apostle makes no mention here.
To the Middle Hierarchy belongs the governance of things in relation to the universal causes. Hence the ranks of this hierarchy have names associated with power since the universal causes are present in the lower and individual things by their energy and power. Three tasks pertain to these powers which govern universally. First, some must give direction by their commands; secondly, others must dispose of any impediments to the fulfillment [of those commands]; thirdly, some must arrange how others will carry out the commands. Of these, the first belongs to the Dominions who, as Dionysius remarks, are free from any subordination; nor are they sent out on external [missions] but they give orders to those who are sent. The second pertains to the Virtues who facilitate the execution of the commands. The third belongs to the Powers who carry out the commands.
On the Lower Hierarchy devolves the guidance of things in relation to individual causes, and they are named from the [classes of objects] consigned to them. Hence, those called Angels carry out what pertains to the salvation of individual persons. The salvation and utility of greater personages is entrusted to the Archangels. Principalities is the name of those who preside over each of the provinces.
Christ is above all of these ranks that have been discussed. The Apostle only makes a special mention of four of them. The reason is that the names of these four ranks are given them for their dignity, and since he is dealing with the dignity of Christ, he names them especially to show that Christ surpasses all created dignity.
Consequently, when he says and above every name that is named, he teaches that Christ has been exalted above every spiritual creature in general. He had stated previously that Christ was exalted above all the spiritual creatures whose names were related to power. However, in Sacred Scripture, besides those ranks of angels, other ranks of celestial spirits are mentioned; for instance, the Seraphim (Is. 6), Cherubim (Ez. 10, 11 and 41), and Thrones (Psalms), which be did not speak of. Therefore, he shows that Christ, as man, is exalted above all of these ranks by adding above every name that is named... [He surpasses] not only those who exercise authority but everything capable of being named.
For it should be recognized that a name is given to understand the object [referred to]; it signifies the object’s substance when what the name designates is the precise intelligibility of the object. In asserting every name that is named he lets us know that the exaltation is above every substance which can be known and comprehended by a name. I say this to exclude the substance of Divinity which is incomprehensible; so a Gloss remarks that above every name means everything that can be named. And lest it be thought that he is above the name of God, he inserts which is named. For the divine majesty can be neither embraced nor designated by a name.
Not only in this world, but also in that which is to come is added because there are many facts in this life that we grasp through knowledge and which we name, whereas those of the future life cannot be comprehended or named: “We know in part; and we prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). Nevertheless, the blessed in the future life do name these latter; they are those realities of which the Apostle says in 2 Corinthians 12 (4), that “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Yet Christ is even exalted above these. “He gave him a name which is above all names” (Phil. 2:9).
He put everything under his feet
and appointed him, the head over all, to be head of the Church.
She is his body, full of him
who fills all things totally.
[Read Marcus Barth, “Head, body, and fullness” (p. 183).]
22 And he hath subjected all things under his feet and hath made him head over all the church,
23 Which is his body and the fulness of him who is filled all in all.
The Apostle has previously dealt with the exaltation of Christ both from the viewpoint of his passing over from death to life (1:20a), and from that of his exaltation to the highest glory (1:20b-21). Now be treats of the immense power of his exaltation. Concerning this he does two things:
First, he discusses the power of Christ with respect to the whole of creation.
Secondly, then his power in relation to the Church (22b23).
He affirms that, with respect to the whole of creation, Christ has universal power since God the Father hath subjected all things under his feet. The phrase under his feet can be taken in two ways. In one it is a figurative and symbolic way of saying that every creature is totally subject to the power of Christ. What we trample under foot is certainly subjected to us. Regarding this power the last chapter of Matthew (28:18) states: “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” “For in subjecting all things to him, he left nothing not subjected to him” (Heb. 2:8).
In another acceptation it is a metaphorical way of speaking. By the feet the lowest part of the body is understood, and by the head the highest. Although the humanity and divinity should not be thought of as parts of Christ, nonetheless the divinity is preeminent in Christ and may be understood as his head—“The head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11-3). The humanity is lower and may be taken as the feet—“Let us worship at his footstool” (Ps. 132:7). The meaning [of this passage] is then that the Father has not only subjected all of creation to Christ as he is God, to whom everything is subject from eternity, but also to his humanity.
Notice how something may be subjected to Christ in two ways, some are so voluntarily and others involuntarily. Origen overlooked this distinction so that this saying of the Apostle occasioned an error on his part. He claimed that everything subjected to Christ, who is true salvation, must share in salvation. He concluded that the demons and damned will be saved at some time since they are subjected under Christ’s feet. But this is contrary to the Lord’s pronouncement: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels”; and he concludes at the end of the chapter, “And these shall go into everlasting punishment” (Mt. 25:41, 46).
It must be held, therefore, that he subjects everything under his feet. Some do so willingly, as to their Saviour. For example, the just who fulfill God’s will in the present life, and are subjected to him that they may satisfy their desire and will, awaiting for what Proverbs 10 (24) says of the good: “To the just their desire shall be given.” Others, however, are subjected to him unwillingly, as to their judge, that Christ may accomplish his own will in their regard. These are the wicked to whom those words in Luke 19 (27) are applicable: “But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them here and kill them before me.”
Next (v. 22b), he deals with Christ’s power with respect to the Church. In reference to this he makes three points:
First, be sets down the relation of Christ to the Church.
Secondly, the relation of the Church to Christ (1:23a).
Thirdly, be explains this relationship (1:23b).
Concerning the first, he says God the Father made him head over all the church, both of the Church militant, composed of men living in the present, and of the Church triumphant, made up of the men and angels in the fatherland. On account of certain general reasons, Christ is even the head of the angels—“who is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:10)—whereas Christ is spiritually the head of mankind for special reasons. For the head has a threefold relationship with the other members. First, it has a preeminent position; secondly, its powers are diffused [throughout the body] since all the senses in the members are derived from it; thirdly, it is of the same nature [as the other members].
Thus, Christ is head of the Angels in regard to previninence and the diffusion [of his power]. Even in his humanity Christ surpasses the angels: “Being made so much better than the angels as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4). Moreover, even as man, Christ enlightens and influences them; Dionysius proves this from the words of Isaias 63 (1): “Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra?,” claiming that these words are those of the highest angels. The response which follows: “It is I, announcing justice mighty to save,” he says are the words of Christ who immediately answers them. From this it should be understood that Christ not only illumines the lower but also the higher angels.
With respect to a conformity of nature, Christ is not the head of the angels, “for surely he did not take angels to himself, but he took the line of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). [By this relationship] he is head of men only. “You have wounded my heart, my sister,” through nature, “and my spouse,” through grace (Cant. 4:9).
He speaks of the relation of the Church to Christ at which is his body, inasmuch as she is subject to him, receives his influence, and shares the same nature with Christ. “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:12-13).
He explains which is his body by adding the fulness of him. To one asking why there are so many members in a natural body—hands, feet, mouth, and the like it could be replied that they are to serve the soul’s variety of activities. [The soul] itself is the cause and principle of these [members], and what they are, the soul is virtually. For the body is made for the soul, and not the other way around. From this perspective, the natural body is a certain fullness of the soul; unless the members exist with an integral body, the soul cannot exercise fully its activities.
This is similar in the relation of Christ and the Church. Since the Church was instituted on account of Christ, the Church is called the fullness of Christ. Everything which is virtually in Christ is, as it were, filled out in some way in the members of the Church. For all spiritual understanding, gifts, and whatever can be present in the Church—all of which Christ possesses superabundantly—flow from him into the members of the Church, and they are perfected in them. So he adds who is filled all in all since Christ makes this member of the Church wise with the perfect wisdom present in himself, and he makes another just with his perfect justice, and so on with the others.