You [Gentiles], especially, dead as you were in your lapses and sins—in the past your steps were bound by them. [You were] following [the inspiration of] this world-age, the ruler of the atmosphere, that spirit which is now at work among the rebellious men. In the past all of us, [Jews] too, followed these ways. In our own fleshly passions, we did whatever our flesh and our thoughts decided. As much as the rest of mankind we were by nature under the wrath [of God].
[Read Marcus Barth, note on “this world-age” (p. 214), and “The realm of the Evil One” (p. 228).]
1 And he has quickened you, when you were dead in your offences and sins,
2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now works on the children of despair;
3 In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Above, the Apostle enumerated the blessings bestowed on the human race in general through Christ (1:3). Here the Apostle sets them in relief by comparing them to [mankind’s] own former condition. Their past state can be considered in two ways: first as a state of sin, and secondly as a state of paganism. Therefore, the Apostle does two things:
First, he recounts the blessings shown them in regard to their first state.
Secondly, he recalls those related to their second state. (2:11).
The first part has two sections:
First, the Apostle describes their state of sin.
Secondly, the blessing of the grace of justification (2:4).
Again, the first part has two divisions:
First, he calls to mind the state of sin with reference to the pagans.
Secondly, then with reference to the Jews (2:3).
Once more the first has two parts:
First, he sets down the generality of the blessing.
Secondly, he adds its necessity (2: 1)
God, he says, is wondrously active in the faithful, “in accord with the exercise of his mighty power, which he worked in Christ,” (Eph 1:19) in raising him from the dead. Hence, according to this activity, and after the example of this operation, he has restored us to the life of grace from the death of sin. “He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his sight” (Hos 6:3). “If you have ben raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
He demonstrates the need for such a blessing when he states when you were dead in your offenses and sins where he describes so well their sin. First of all, [he depicts] the multitude [of their sins] at And you, when you were dead with the worst type of death, spiritual death. “Evil will slay the wicked [Vul: The death of the wicked is very evil]” (Ps 34:22). Sin is termed a death because by it man is separated from God who is life: I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Dead I say, in your offenses and sins—behold the great number! For offenses are the omissions [of what they should have done]—“Who can discover errors?” (Ps 19:13)—while sins are [the evil they] committed. Wherein in time past you walked is added to exaggerate the great number of sins. For if some are dead in offenses and sins at one time, they nonetheless cease at another time and leave off sinning; but these keep up their pace in going from bad to worse. Philippians 3 (18) contains a similar idea: “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you with tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.” They “have gone after worthlessness and become worthless” (Jer 2:5).
Secondly, he describes the twofold cause of their sin. One arises from this world insofar as they are attracted by the things of the world. Concerning this he states according to the course of this world; you were allured by mundane matters into a worldly life. “If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.” Hence the command: “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world” (1 Jn 2:15).
The other cause was the devils whom they served, of which Wisdom 14 (27) warns: “The worship of infamous is the beginning and cause and end of all evil.” In reference to this he says according to the prince of the power of this air, and he portrays three aspects of this cause.
First, as regards their strength he says the prince of the power. He exerts a power, not by the fact that he has it naturally, since he is neither the Lord nor creator by nature, but to the degree that he dominates over men who subject themselves to him by sinning. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (Jn 12:31); “for the prince of this world is coming; he has no power over me” (Jn 14:30).
Secondly, concerning their dwelling place he says of this air, that is, he has power in this darksome atmosphere. Here it should be noted that two opinions exist among the doctors. For some held that the demons who had fallen [from grace] were not from the higher ranks, but from the lower ones in charge of the lower bodies. It is evident that the whole of material creation is governed by God through the ministry of angels. Thus John Damascene was of the opinion that the first of those who had fallen had been in charge of the terrestrial order. He may have derived this from Plato’s talk about certain celestial or world substances. In this perspective of this air is interpreted that they were created to preside over this atmosphere.
Others preferred, and with better reason, that those [angels who sinned] were from the highest ranks. Of this air then designates that this atmosphere is the place of their punishment. Jude refers to this in his canonical [letter]: “And the angels who did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling he has kept in everlasting chains under darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). The reason why they were not immediately thrust into hell after their fall, but released in the atmosphere, was because God did not want the creation of those who had sinned to be totally frustrated. Hence, he sent them to try men, by which the good would be prepared for glory and the wicked for eternal death. The time of our warfare and of merit will last until the day of judgment, till then they will remain in the atmosphere; after the day of judgment, however, they will be thrust back into hell.
Observe also how one reading has “of the spirit” which, as a genitive singular, stands for the plural “of the spirits.” Another reading gives “spirit” in the accusative case; as if to say: “according to the prince spirit,” that is, the prince who is a spirit.
Thirdly, [he describes] their activity when be states that now works on the children of despair. They are the children of despair who reject the fruit of Christ’s passion. Or, those who have no faith in eternal realities nor hope in salvation through Christ. In these the prince of the power of this air freely works, leading them wherever he wishes. Later it is said of them: “They have become callous [Vul: despairing] and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness” (Eph 4:19). Perhaps, of despair means those of whom we should despair because they sin out of malice; the prince of this world doing whatever he pleases in them. For no one should despair of those who sin from ignorance or weakness, nor does that prince do whatever he wants with them.
On the contrary, however, one should never despair of anyone else as long as he lives. I reply. Our hope in someone can be twofold. On the one hand, it can be in the man, and on the other, in divine grace. Thus someone may be despaired of as far as he himself is concerned, but never must confidence in God be lost. For instance, people rightly despaired of Lazarus’ power to bring himself back to life once he bad been placed in the tomb, but no trust should have been lost in the God who raised him up. Therefore, those who out of malice are sunk in their many sins can be despaired of from the point of view of their own strength: “I have sunk into the abysmal Mire, where there is no footing” (Ps 69:3). But no one should despair if it is a question of the divine power. Concerning these children of despair it mentions further on: “Let no man deceive you with empty words. For because of these things the anger of God comes upon the children of disobedience [Vul: despair]” (Eph 5:6).
Next (v. 3), the Apostle recalls the sinful state of the Jews, thereby demonstrating how everyone had sinned, according to that saying of Romans 3 (9): “For we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.” Nevertheless, a difference should be noted. The Apostle had designated two causes when dealing with the sin of the Gentiles, one on the side of the world and the other on that of the demons whom they worshiped. The Jews were like the Gentiles in their sinful condition in regard to the first cause, but not the second; hence, the Apostle only mentions their sin as arising from worldly causes. In reference to this he makes three points:
First, he recounts their guilt regarding sins of the heart.
Secondly, the sins of action.
Thirdly, original sin.
A sin of, the heart is implied in carnal desires. About this he asserts: in which sins and offenses also we all who are Jews conversed in time past, leading our life in the carnal desires of our flesh. “For we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit 3:3). “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ; and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:14).
Sin in action is nothing else than a manifestation of inner concupiscence. A certain concupiscence of the flesh exists, it consists of the natural concupiscences; for example, for food through which the individual maintains his own life, and for sexual relations by which the species is preserved.
Regarding these he says fulfilling the will of the flesh, doing what the flesh delights in. “And they who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). Another concupiscence exists, that of thought. These desires do not spring from the flesh but from the appetitive faculty of the soul, such as the ambition for honors, for one’s own excellence and the like. Of these he states and of our thoughts, that is, inordinate desires are followed once they are caused by the prompting of our reflections.
Original sin is hinted at in and we were by nature children of wrath. This sin of the first parent was not only passed on to the Gentiles but to the Jews also: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). Baptism cleanses only the individual person who receives it from original sin; his children must also be baptized. Likewise, circumcision cleansed only the individual from original sin; the children they begot still had to be circumcised. Thus he says we were by nature, that is, from the earliest beginning of nature—not of nature as nature since this is good and from God, but of nature as vitiated—children of an avenging wrath, aimed at punishment and hell, even as the rest, that is, the Gentiles.
God who is rich in mercy
—for he loves us with all his love—
just because we were dead in our lapses
has made us alive together with the Messiah.
By grace you are saved!
For he has in the Messiah Jesus
raised and enthroned us together in the heavens.
In order to prove throughout the ages to come,
through the goodness [shown] to us in the Messiah Jesus,
how infinitely rich is his grace.
[Read Marcus Barth, note on structure of verses 4-10 (p. 217).]
4 But God who is rich in mercy, for his exceeding charity wherewith be loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ by whose grace you are saved,
6 And has raised us up together and has made us sit together in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus;
7 That he might shew in the ages to come the abundant riches of his grace, in his own goodness towards us in Christ Jesus.
After exaggerating their state of festering sin (2:1), the Apostle recounts here the blessing of the grace of justification. Concerning which he does two things:
First, he sets down the blessing itself.
Secondly, he explains it (2:8).
The blessing is described with reference to its three causes:
First, the efficient cause.
Secondly, the formal or exemplary cause (2:5).
Thirdly, the final cause (2:7).
The efficient cause of the divine blessing of justification is God’s charity: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us. He states for his exceeding charity since we can think of a fourfold goodness and efficacy of the divine love. First, it brought us into existence: “For you love all things that are, and hate none of the things which you have made” (Wis 11:25). Second, he made us according to his own image, capable of enjoying his own beatitude: “He [God] came from Miribath-Kadesh [Vul & lit: thousands of saints]. At his right hand a fire blazed forth. He has loved the people; all the saints are in his hand” (Deut 33:2-3). Third, he renewed men corrupted by sin: “Yea, I have loved them with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee” (Jer 31:3). Fourth, for our salvation he gave over his own Son: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). Hence Gregory exclaims: “O the incalculable love of your charity! To redeem slaves you delivered up your Son.”
He then asserts who is rich in mercy. When a man’s love is caused from the goodness of the one he loves, then that man who loves does so out of justice, inasmuch as it is just that he love such a person. When, however, love causes the goodness in the beloved, then it is a love springing from mercy. The love with which God loves us produces goodness in us; hence mercy is presented here as the root of the divine love: “The favors of Yahweh I will recall, the praises of Yahweh for all that Yahweh has done for us... which he has given according to his kindness and the multitude of his mercies” (Is 63:7). And “where is your zealous care and might, your surge of pity and mercy toward me?” (Is 63:15).
God is said to be rich in mercy because he possesses an infinite and unfailing mercy, which man does not. For man has a mercy that is bounded or limited in three ways. Firstly, in bestowing temporal benefits, man’s mercy is restricted by the amount of his own possessions. “If you have little, do not be afraid to give from that little” (Tob 4:8); whereas God is “enriches all who call upon him” (Rom 10:12). Secondly, the mercy of man is limited since he can only pardon offenses against himself. Even with these there ought to be a certain qualification; he should not forgive so indiscriminately that whoever is pardoned becomes more bold, prone and ready to offend again. “For, because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set to do evil” (Eccl 8:11). But nothing can harm God and hence he can forgive every offense: “If you sin, what harm do you do to him?” And a little further on, “And if you act rightly, what do you give him?” (Job 35:6 & 7). Thirdly, a man shows mercy in remitting punishment; yet here too a qualification must be observed: he must not contravene the justice of a higher law. God, on the other hand, can remit all punishment since he is not bound by any higher law: “Who gave him charge over the earth? Or who else set the land in its place?” (Job 34:13). Thus the mercy of God is infinite because it is not limited by a scarcity of wealth, nor is it restricted through a fear of injury, nor by any higher law.
The exemplary cause of the blessing is that it is granted in Christ. In reference to this he states even when we were dead in sins, he has quickened us together in Christ. He touches upon a triple blessing: justification, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven—through these three we are assimilated to Christ.
He states, that the whole text might be read, concerning the first: God, who is rich in mercy, for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ, he has made us live together with Christ. “He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his sight” (Hos 6:3). He has quickened us, I say, through a life of justice: “Who placed us among the living” (Ps 66:9). This occurs in Christ, that is, through the grace of Christ by whose grace you are saved. “For we are saved by hope” (Rom 8:24). Regarding the second, he says and has raised us up together with Christ—for the soul [this has happened] in reality, in hope the body [awaits it]. “He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). In respect to the third he asserts and has made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, now through hope, and in the future in reality. For, as John 12 (26) puts it: “Where I am, there also will my servant be. If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.” Also 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.”
In these the Apostle uses the past tense in place of the future, proclaiming as already accomplished what has yet to be done on account of the certitude of hope. Thus God has quickened us in soul, he has raised us up in body, and has made us sit with Christ in both [body and soul].
Consequently, when he says that he might shew in the ages to come, he discloses the final cause of the blessing which has been given. It can be read in two ways, depending on whether ages to come pertains to the present or future life. If it applies to this life, then age is a certain measure of time and a period of one generation. As though he affirmed: I am saying that we who are the first-fruits of those who sleep (cf. 1 Thes 4:12 ff.), he has quickened in Christ that he might show in the ages to come, to those who will exist after us, the abundant riches of his grace. And this is not on account of our merits, but in his own goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, that is, through Christ Jesus. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of these I am the foremost. But I have received mercy for this reason, that in me first Christ Jesus might display his perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16). Therefore, God has communicated copious gifts of grace to the early saints that later generations would more easily be converted to Christ.
Or, age can be taken in reference to the next life, of which Sirach 24 (14) states: “For eternity I shall not cease to exist.” Although there will then be only one age, since it will be eternity, he nevertheless says in the ages to come on account of the numerous saints who will participate in eternity; there are said to be as many ages as there are shared-in eternities. Psalm 145 (13) speaks of these ages: “Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom.” In this sense he affirms: I say that he has vivified us in hope, namely, through Christ or in grace that he might shew in the ages to come, that is, that he might bring to perfection in the next life, the abundant riches of his grace. Such an abundant grace with which, even in this world, he forgives many sins and confers the greatest of gifts, will superabound even more in the next life, since there it will be enjoyed unfailingly. “I have come that they might have a life,” namely, of grace in this world, “and have it more abundantly” in the fatherland of glory (Jn 10:10).
This occurs in his own goodness. “Israel, how good God is to those who are pure of heart!” (Ps 73:1 ). “Yahweh is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him” (Lam 3:25). This is towards us; it is beyond our desire, our understanding, and beyond our capacity: “No eye has seen any God but you acting like this for those who wait for him” (Is 64:4). And this is in Christ Jesus, that is, through Christ Jesus; for as grace is bestowed on us through Christ, so also is glory communicated, which is grace brought to perfection. “Yahweh God bestows favors and honors” (Ps 84:12). Through the same person we are beatified, through whom we are justified.
He says that he might shew because the treasure of grace is hidden within us; we have it “in earthen vessels” as 2 Corinthians 4 (7) expresses it. “Behold what manner of charity the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God,” after which comes: “We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him” (1 Jn 3:1-2). But that hidden treasure, although it has not yet been revealed, is shown in the ages to come, since in the fatherland everything relating to the transparent glory of the saints will be unveiled before us. “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).
By grace you are saved, through faith!
This [was] not out of your own doing—it is a gift of God—not [as a reward] for works lest anyone boast about himself. For
God himself has made us what we are.
In the Messiah Jesus we are created
for those good works which God has provided
as our way of life.
[Read Marcus Barth, “The Judaizers’ works of the law” (p. 244), “Indestructible good works” (p. 248).]
8 For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God.
9 Not of works, that no man may glory.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God has prepared that we should walk in them.
When the Apostle was recounting above the blessing of God by which we have been freed from sin, he inserted [the thought] that we had been saved by Christ’s grace (2:5). Now he intends to prove that; he makes two points concerning it:
First, he sets down his intention.
Secondly, he clarifies the point in question (2:8b).
I rightly declared, he says of the first, by whose grace you were saved; and indeed, I still confidently say For, in place of “because,” by grace you are saved. “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15: 10), “being justified freely by his grace” (Rom 3:24). For to be saved is the same as to be justified. Salvation implies a freedom from dangers; hence, man’s perfect salvation will be in eternal life when he will be immune from all dangers, as a ship is said to be safe when it has arrived at port. “You shall call your walls ‘salvation’ and your gates ‘praise’” (Is 60: 18).
Men receive the hope of this salvation when they are justified from sin in the present, and are thus referred to as saved according to the expression of Romans 8 (24): “For we are saved by hope.” But this salvation of grace is by faith in Christ. In the justification of an adult who has sinned, the movement of faith towards God coincides with the infusion of grace. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Lk 8:48). “Being justified, therefore, by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
When he next says and that not of yourselves, he clarifies what he had spoken of:
First, regarding faith, which is the foundation of the whole spiritual edifice.
Secondly, regarding grace (2: 10).
He eliminates two errors concerning the first point. The first of these is that, since he had said we are saved by faith, any one can hold the opinion that faith itself originates within ourselves and that to believe is determined by our own wishes. Therefore to abolish this he states and that not of yourselves. Free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above human reason. “Matters too great for human understanding have been shown to you” (Sir 3:25). “No one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it, according to that text of Wisdom 9 (17): “Who could ever have known your will, had you not given Wisdom and sent your Holy Spirit from above.” For this reason he adds for it is the gift of God, namely, faith itself. “For you have been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29). “To another, faith is given in the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:9).
The second error he rejects is that anyone can believe that faith is given by God to us on the merit of our preceding actions. To exclude this he adds Not of preceding works that we merited at one time to be saved; for this is the grace, as was mentioned above, and according to Romans 11 (6): “If by grace, it is not now by works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” He follows with the reason why God saves man by faith without any preceding merits, that no man may glory in himself but refer all the glory to God. “Not for our sake, Yahweh, not for our sake, but for the sake of your name display your glory, because of your kindness, because of your faithfulness” (Ps 115:1-2). “That no flesh should glory in his sight. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, justice, sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:29-30).
Next (2: 10), he clarifies what he had said regarding grace. Concerning this he does two things:
First, he clarifies the infusion of grace.
Secondly, he declares the predestination of grace (2: l0b).
There are two essential characteristics of grace, they have already been spoken of. The first of these is that what exists through grace is not present in man through himself or by himself, but from the gift of God. In reference to this he states For we are his workmanship, whatever good we possess is not from ourselves but from the action of God. “Know that Yahweh is God: he made us, the Almighty” (Ps 99:3). “Is he not your Father, who created you, made you and fashioned you?” (Deut. 32:6). This is immediately linked with what went before: that no man may glory for we are his workmanship. Or, it can be joined with what was said above: For by grace you are saved.
The second essential characteristic of grace is that it is not from previous works; this is expressed when he adds created. To create anything is to produce it from nothing; hence, when anyone is justified without preceding merits, he can be said to have been created as though made from nothing. This creative action of justification occurs through the power of Christ communicating the Holy Spirit. On this account he adds in Christ Jesus, that is, through Christ Jesus. “For [in Christ Jesus] neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). “Send forth your Spirit, they are created anew” (Ps 104:30). Moreover, not only are the habits of virtue and grace given to us, but we are inwardly renewed through the Spirit in order to act uprightly. Whence he goes on in good works since the good works themselves are [made possible] to us by God. “For you have accomplished all we have done” (Is 26:12).
Since “those he predestined he also called” through grace, as Romans 8 (30) expresses it, therefore he adds something concerning predestination, saying, which good works God has prepared. For predestination is nothing else than the pre-arrangement of God’s blessings, among which blessings our good works themselves are numbered. God is said to prepare something for us insofar as be disposes himself to give it to us. “Provide the land with grain, for you prepared it for this” (Ps 64:10).
Lest anyone imagine that good works are prepared for us by God in such a way that we do not cooperate in their realization through our free will, he annexes that we should walk in them. As though he said: Thus has he prepared them for us, that we might perform them for ourselves through our free will. “For we are God’s co-workers” (1 Cor 3:9). For this reason the Apostle said of himself: “By the grace of God, I am what I am. And his grace in me has not been in vain; rather I have worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor 15:10). He expressly said we should walk to designate a progress in good works, in line with that saying: “Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overtake you” (Jn 12:35); “Walk then as children of the light” (Eph 5:8).
Remember, then, that in the past [and] in the realm of flesh you, the Gentiles—called The Uncircumcision by those who call themselves The Circumcision, that handmade operation in the realm of flesh— [Remember] that at that time you were apart form the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, strangers to the covenants based upon promise. In this world you were bare of hope and without God. But now you are [included] in the realm of the Messiah Jesus. Through the blood of the Messiah you who in the past stood far off have been brought near.
11 For which cause be mindful that you, being heretofore Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands;
12 That you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from Israel’s way of life and strangers to the testaments, having no hope of the promise and without God in this world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you, who some time were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Once he has outlined God’s blessing to the Gentiles in freeing them from sin (2:1), the Apostle recalls the favor shown them in their liberation from the state of paganism. Concerning this he does two things:
First, he recounts the condition of their former state.
Secondly, he describes the blessings granted them in their present state (2:13).
He does two things about the first:
First, he prefaces the recollections of their past state with an exhortation.
Secondly, be discusses the condition of the past state itself (2:11b).
Thus he says For which cause, that you might advert to the fact that everything comes to us by God’s grace, be mindful: “Remember and do not forget how you provoked Yahweh your God in the dessert” (Deut 9:7). “That you may remember the day of your coming out of Egypt, all the days of your life” (Deut 16:3).
When he states that you, being heretofore Gentiles he recounts, in the second place, the condition of their past state:
First, as regards the evils they endured.
Secondly, as regards the goods of which they were deprived (2:12).
In reference to the first he exposes three evils. First was the crime of paganism, by which they were accustomed to worship idols; this he implies in that you being heretofore Gentiles. “You know that when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols according as you were led” (1 Cor 12:2). Some books have “You who were Gentiles” and omit everything until “But now in Christ Jesus...” (v. 13). Secondly, he discusses their carnal way of life, saying in the flesh, that is, living lustfully. “And they who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). Thirdly, he speaks of the repugnance and contempt with which the Jews despised them. Hence he mentions who are called uncircumcision by that type of circumcision which is called circumcision in the flesh as the circumcised Jews performed this circumcision. He says made by hands to distinguish it from the spiritual circumcision spoken of in Colossians 2 (11-13): “In whom [Christ] you also were circumcised with a circumcision not hand-made, by putting off the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism... And when you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has brought you to life together with him, forgiving you all offenses.”
Next (v. 12), he recounts the good things of which they were deprived:
First from a share in the sacraments.
Secondly, from a knowledge of God, at and without God in this world (v. 12).
Regarding the first he sets down three sacraments they were deprived of sharing in. They were, first of all, without the fundamental truth of Christ; whence he affirms that you were at that time without Christ, without the promise of a Christ as was made to the Jews. “I will raise up for David a just branch; and a king shall reign and shall be wise” (Jer 23:5). “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: See, your King is coming to you, triumphant and victorious” (Zech 9:9).
They were deprived, in the second place, from the society of the saints as long as they remained in paganism. He says they were aliens from Israel’s way of life, since the Jews were not permitted to mix with the Gentiles. “You shall not make any league with them, nor show them mercy. Neither shall you make marriages with them” (Deut 7:2-3). “Jews do not communicate with Samaritans” (Jn 4:9). With respect to those who—not without contempt—were accepted into Judaism when they became proselytes he adds and strangers to the testaments. As though he asserted: These converts, when they went over to Judaism and became proselytes, were accepted to partake of God’s covenants as strangers rather than as citizens. He says testaments in the plural since the Old Testament was offered the Jews and the New was promised. “The Lord made his covenant rest upon the head of Jacob” (Sir 44:25) can be understood of the Old Testament. God promised to give them another covenant: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (Bar 2:35). This latter was granted to those “to whom belong the adoption as children, the glory and the giving of the Law” (Rom 9:4).
He also sets down another blessing of which they were deprived: the hope of future goods, when he says having no hope of the promise since “To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed” (Gal 3:16).
Finally, he writes of the greatest injury from which they suffered, ignorance of God. And without God in this world means without the knowledge of God. “God has shown himself in Judah” (Ps 76:2), but not among the Gentiles: “Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that do not know God” (1 Thes 4:5). This must be understood of the knowledge obtainable through faith, for Romans 1 (21) speaks of their natural knowledge: “Although they knew God, they did not glorified him as God or give him thanks.”
After this he recalls the blessings offered them through Christ in their [present] condition after conversion. Concerning this he does two things:
First, he shows how they were made partakers of the goods previously denied them.
Secondly, he shows that their participation in those goods is not that of strangers but of citizens (2:19).
The first part again has two sections:
First, he depicts these blessings in a general way.
Secondly, he specifies them (2:14).
With respect to the first: I have mentioned that in former times you were without Christ, alienated from Israel’s way of life. But now, after you have been converted to Christ, you are in Christ Jesus, intimately united to him through faith and love. “He who remains in love remains in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but a new creature” (Gal 6:15).
You, I say, who some time were afar off, severed from God, not by space but by what you deserved, because it is said: “Keep distant from the wicked your salvation” (Ps 119:155), as well as association with the saints and a share in the covenants, as has already been said. Now you are made near to God and to his saints and covenants. “Your sons shall come from afar and your daughters shall be carried in arms” (Is 60:4). “For some of them,” namely, the Gentiles, “have come from far away” (Mk 8:3), from the land of distortion and the state of paganism. Yet now you are made near by the blood of Christ, that is, through his blood by which Christ draws you: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself” (Is 12:32). This was on account of his vehement love which most forcefully revealed itself in the death of the cross. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore have I maintained my faithful love for you” (Jer 31:3).
For [we confess]
He is in person the peace between us.
He has made both [Gentiles and Jews] into one.
For he has broken down the dividing wall,
in his flesh [he has wiped out all] enmity.
He has abolished the law, [that is, only] the
commandments [expressed] in statutes.
[This was] to make peace by creating in his person
a single new man out of the two,
and to reconcile both to God
through the cross in one single body.
In his own person he has killed the enmity.
Indeed when he came he proclaimed good news:
“Peace to you who are far and peace to those near!”
Through him and in one single Spirit
the two [of us] have free access to the Father.
[Read Marcus Barth, “Law” (p. 287), “Priest and victim” (p. 298) along with Torrell, II Mâitre spirituel on present efficacy of Christ’s death; Barth: “Destruction and construction” (p. 306), “One new man” (p. 308).]
14 For he is our peace, who has made both one, and breaking down the middle barrier of partition, the enmities in his flesh,
15 * Making void the law of commandments by the decrees, that he might make the two in himself into one new man, making peace,
16 And might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, killing the enmities in himself.
17 And, coming, he preached peace to you that were afar off; and peace to them that were nigh.
18 For by him we have access both in one Spirit to the Father.
Having recounted the blessings imparted to the Ephesians through Christ in a general way (2:13), he now recounts them in greater detail. Concerning this he makes two points:
First, he shows how they have converged with the Jewish people.
Secondly, how they are drawn closer to God (2:16).
The first has three divisions:
First, he reveals the cause of this convergence.
Secondly, its manner (2:14b).
Thirdly, its purpose (2:15b).
Christ is the cause of this drawing together, for which reason he affirms For he is our peace, who has made both one. This is an emphatic way of speaking to better express the reality, as though he said: Rightly do I say that you are drawn near each other, but this occurs through Christ since he is the cause of our peace. “My peace I give you” (Jn 14:27). It is usual to adopt this way of speaking when the totality of the effect depends on its cause; for instance, we say that God himself is our salvation because whatever salvation is present in us is caused by God. In the same way, whatever peace we possess is caused by Christ and, as a result, whatever convergence [men have with one another]. For when a man is at peace with another he can securely walk towards or approach him. Hence, he is our peace. Angels announced peace at his birth: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to those he is pleased with” (Lk 2:14). Indeed, while Christ lived in the body the world enjoyed the greatest peace, the like of which it had never before possessed. “May the just man flourish in his days, and peace pour down till the moon be no more” (Ps 72:7). He himself proclaimed peace when he arose from the dead: “He said to them: ‘Peace be with you’” (Lk 24:36).
It follows that he has made both one, joining into unity both the Jews who worshiped the true God and the Gentiles who were alienated from God’s cult. “And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold; them also I must bring. And they shall bear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). “One king shall be king over them all. And they shall no more be two nations, neither shall they be divided any more into two kingdoms” (Ez 37:22).
The manner of convergence is revealed when he states and breaking down the middle barrier of partition. The method, then, consists in removing what is divisive. To understand the text we should imagine a large field with many men gathered on it. But a high barrier was thrown across the middle of it, segregating the people so that they did not appear as one people but two. Whoever would remove the barrier would unite the crowds of men into one multitude, one people would be formed.
What is said here should be understood in this way. For the world is likened to a field: “The field is the world” (Mt 13:38); this field of the world is crowded with men, “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). A barrier, however, runs down the field, some are on one side and the rest on the other. The Old Law can be termed such a barrier, its carnal observances kept the Jews confined: “Before the faith came, we were under the guardianship of the law, confined in anticipation of the faith which was to be revealed” (Gal 3:23). Christ was symbolized through the Old Law: “See, he stands behind our wall” (Cant. 2:9). Christ, however, has put an end to this barrier and, since no division remained, the Jews and the Gentiles became one people. This is what he says: I affirm that he has made both one by the method of breaking down the middle barrier.
I say a barrier of partition and not a wall. A barrier of partition is one in which the stones are not mortared together with cement; it is not built to last permanently but only for a specified time. The Old Law was a barrier of partition for two reasons. First, because it was not mortared together with charity which is, as it were, the cement uniting individuals among themselves and everyone together with Christ. “Be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). The Old Law is a law of fear, persuading men to observe its commands by punishments and threats. While that law was in force, those who kept it out of love belonged by anticipation, as Augustine holds, to the New Testament which is the law of love. “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons” (Rom 8:15). Secondly, the Old Law is a barrier of partition because it was not meant to last permanently but only for a definite time. “As long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a servant, though he is master of all; but he is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by his father. So we also, when we were children, were slaves to the elemental powers of the world” (Gal 4:1-3).
A problem arises here since he says breaking down the barrier of partition and, on the contrary, Matthew 5 (17) states: “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” I reply. The Old Law contained both moral and ceremonial precepts. The moral commandments were not destroyed by Christ but fulfilled in the counsels he added and in his explanations of what the Scribes and Pharisees had wrongly interpreted. So he says in Matthew 5 (20): “Unless your justice abounds more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And further on: “You have heard that it has been said: ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you” (Mt 5:43-44). He abolished the ceremonial precepts with regard to what they were in themselves, but he fulfilled them with regard to what they prefigured, adding what was symbolized to the symbol.
It should be understood, therefore, that in saying breaking he refers to the observance of the carnal law. To break down this barrier of partition is to destroy the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. The former wanted to observe the law and the latter bad little inclination to do so, from which anger and jealousy sprung up between them. But certainly, Christ has abolished this animosity in his assumed flesh. For at his birth peace was immediately proclaimed to men (cf. Lk 2:14). Or, in his immolated flesh since “He has given himself for us as an offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). In this sacrifice all the former sacrifices were fulfilled and came to an end. “For by a single offering he has perfected for ever those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
What that barrier was he implies when he says the law of commandments, as though he said: Breaking down the barrier which is the law of the commandments. The Old Law is termed the law of commandments, not because other laws lacked injunctions since the New Law has commandments: “A new commandment I give you” (Jn 13:34). There are two reasons why [this title is applied to the Old Law]. One is the great number of legal injunctions it contained, so many that men could not possibly keep them all, according to that text of Acts 15 (10): “Now, therefore, why tempt God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” And Job 11 (6): “That he would tell you the secrets of wisdom, which have multiple applications.” Or, it is called of commandments meaning “of works.” “Where then is your boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith” (Rom 3:27). Thus the baptism of John was called a baptism of water since it would cleanse only externally and not sanctify interiorly. Likewise, the Old Law was termed of works be cause it ordained only what must be done, but did not confer the grace through which men would have been assisted in fulfilling the law. The New Law, on the other hand, regulates what must be done by giving commands, and it aids in fulfilling them by bestowing grace.
I affirm [that Christ in his flesh was] making void the law of commandments as the imperfect is made void by the perfect and the shadow by the truth. “When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away” (1 Cor 13:10), that is, the imperfection and shadow of the Old Law of which Hebrews 10 (1) asserts: “The law has a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things.” This happened by the decrees, referring to the precepts of the New Testament through which the law was annulled. “You shall eat the oldest of the old store; and, the new coming on,” that is, the precepts of the Natural Law together with the New Law; and having received these precepts “you shall cast away the old” (Lev 26:10), meaning the ceremonial precepts of the Old Law as they were in themselves, as was mentioned above.
He reveals the purpose of the convergence when he states that he might make the two in himself into one new man. The end is that the aforementioned two peoples would be formed into one people. Whatever unites must come together in some unity, and since the law divided they could not be united in that law. But Christ took the place of the law, and faith in him, as the truth of those symbols, made them one in himself. “That they may be one as we also are one” (Jn 17:22); “For, where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).
This is into one new man, making peace. That is, into Christ himself who is called a new man on account of the new manner of his conception: “For the Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: a woman shall encompass a man” (Jer 31:22). Another factor is the novelty of the grace he bestows: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any meaning, but a new creature” (Gal 6:15); “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man who is created according to God” (Eph 4:23). [Christ is also a new man] on account of the new commands he sets forth: “A new commandment I give you: that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
This appears to correspond to the Apostle’s intention, yet in a Gloss the barrier is duplicated. On the side of the Jews the law is set up as the obstacle, while on the Gentile’s side it is idolatry.
When he states and might reconcile both to God in one body, he discloses how both draw near to God. Concerning this he does two things:
First, he treats of their reconciliation to God.
Secondly, he writes of the manifestation of this reconciliation (2-17).
It should be realized that love of neighbor is the way to peace with God; for, as is mentioned in 1 John 4 (20): “He who does not love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he does not see?” Let no one pretend he has peace with Christ, Augustine asserts, if he quarrels with another Christian. Hence, he first mentions the peace among themselves Christ brought to men and then the peace of men with God. For this reason he says that he might reconcile both the united peoples in one body of the Church, namely, in Christ. “We, being many, are one body in Christ” (Rom 12:5). Then he reconciles us to God through faith and charity: “For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5: 19).
He achieved this by the cross, killing the enmities in himself. In fulfilling the Old Testament symbols, he killed the hostility that had arisen through the law between the Jews and the Gentiles. But the hostility that existed between God and men through sin, he killed in himself when he blotted out sin through the death of the Cross. He “who gave himself for our sins” (Gal 1-4); “Christ was offered once to carry away the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). Therefore, he says killing the enmities, that is, sins, in himself, meaning in the immolation of his own body. “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). “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10). “God wanted all fullness to dwell in him, and through him, to reconcile all things unto himself’ (Col 1:19-20). Since Christ satisfied sufficiently for our sins, reconciliation occurred as a consequence of his having paid the price (cf. 1 Cor 6:20).
The manifestation of the reconciliation is set down in And coming, he preached where he touches on:
First, the proclamation of peace or reconciliation.
Secondly, the cause and reason of this peace (2:18).
The reconciliation of God to man through Christ has been made known because Christ himself not only reconciled us to God and destroyed the hostilities, but also coming in the flesh he preached and proclaimed peace. Or, coming after the resurrection when he stood in the midst of the disciples and said. “Peace be to you” (Lk 24:36). “He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to heal the brokenhearted” (Is 61:1). “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who preaches peace, brings good news and announces salvation” (Is 52:7).
He preached, I say, not to one people only but to you Gentiles that were afar off; although not in his own person, nonetheless he proclaimed peace to you through his Apostles. “Go, therefore, and teach all nations” (Mt 28:19). “Hear, you that are far off, what I have done: and you that are near, know my strength” (Is 33:13). Christ in his own person announced the peace to them that were near. “For I say that Christ became a servant of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs” (Rom 15:8). [Is 54:15 Vulgate misses point].
He indicates the cause and form of peace by saying For by him we have access both, that is, the two peoples, in one Spirit, meaning we are joined by the union of the Holy Spirit. “Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). “One and the same Spirit produces all these” (1 Cor 12:11). The way we enjoy access to the Father is through Christ since Christ works through the Holy Spirit. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). Hence, whatever happens through the Holy Spirit also occurs through Christ.
When he says to the Father, [our access] also must be understood as pertaining to the whole Trinity. For, by reason of the unity of the Divine Essence, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in the Father, and the Father and the Son are in the Holy Spirit. In saying to the Father he especially shows that whatever the Son possesses he has from the Father, and that he recognizes he has it from the Father.
Accordingly you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the keystone being he Messiah Jesus himself. The whole construction, fitted together in him, grows in the Lord into a holy temple. In him you, too, are being built together so as to be a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
[Read Marcus Barth, “keystone” (p. 317, #2).]
19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God,
20 Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 In whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord.
22 In which you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit.
Once he has made it clear that the Gentiles have been admitted to spiritual blessings together with the Jews (2:13), he goes on to teach that in these blessings the Gentiles are not of less eminence than the Jews themselves; they enjoy a completely equal access to Christ’s blessings. In reference to this be does two things:
First, he presents what he has in mind.
Secondly, he clarifies this presentation by an example (2:20).
Regarding the first he makes two points:
First, he excludes what was [true of] their past state from their present state.
Secondly, he concludes to what is fitting for their present state (2:19b).
In drawing a conclusion, the Apostle says Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, and it should be recognized that a similar conclusion follows from the premises. First, indeed, from this, that both [Jews and Gentiles] are united and are reconciled to God. In the second place, they both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Together they are conformed to the whole Trinity; to the Father whom they approach, to the Son through whom, and to the Holy Spirit in whom they have access in unity. Hence, they in no way lack a share in spiritual goods.
To understand the text it must be realized that the community of the faithful are sometimes referred to as a house in the Scriptures: “that you may know how to behave thyself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). At other times it is called a city: “Jerusalem, which is built as a city” (Ps 121:3). A city possesses a political community whereas a household has a domestic one, these differ in two respects. For those who belong to the domestic community share with one another private activities; but those belonging to the civil community have in common with one another public activities. Secondly, the head of the family governs the domestic community; while those in the civil community are ruled by a king. Hence [the analogy]: what the king is in the realm, this the father is in the home.
The community of the faithful contains within it something of the city and something of the home. If the ruler of the community is thought of, he is a father: “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt 6:9); “I though you would me Father and would not turn from following me” (Jer 3:19). In this perspective, the community is a home. But if you consider the subjects themselves, it is a city since they have in common with one another the particular acts of faith, hope and charity. In this way, if the faithful are considered in themselves, the community is a civil one; if, however, the ruler is thought of, it is a domestic community.
This is why the Apostle writes the two words here: strangers and foreigners. For what the stranger is to the home, that the foreigner is to the city. A stranger is an outsider, as it were, of a family: “It is a miserable life to go from house to house, and where you are a guest you may not open your mouth” (Sir 29:24). A foreigner is as an alien to the city into which he comes. As though the Apostle said: Formerly you were estranged from the community of believers, as strangers to a home and foreigners to a state—and as the proselytes were to the Old Law—but this is true no longer, for you are no more strangers and foreigners. [Is 54:15 Vulgate misses the point.]
Next (v, 19b), he draws the conclusion of what their present state is, stating but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God. As if he had said: Since the community of the faithful is termed a city in relation to its subjects, and a home relative to its ruler, the assembly to which you are called is the city of the saints and the house of God. “He who made perfect the glorious dwellings of Jacob speaks in you, city of God:” (Ps 87:3). Hence Augustine remarks: “Two loves have formed two cities. For the love of God, even to the “contempt of self,” namely, of the man loving, “builds the heavenly city of Jerusalem. But the love of self, even to the contempt of God, builds the city of Babylon. Everyone, then, either is a citizen with the saints if he loves God to the contempt of self; or, if he loves himself even to the contempt of God, he is a citizen of Babylon.
Consequently, when he says built upon the foundation of the Apostles, he clarifies what has been said. It is customary in the Scriptures that the figure, called metonymy, is used where the container is substituted for what it contains, as a house sometimes refers to those who are in the house. The Apostle employs this figure of speech concerning those who are in the house of God, the faithful; as though they were one house, he compares them to a building. Regarding this he does two things:
First, he sets down what he intended.
Secondly, he shows that the Ephesians themselves have become parts of this building (2:22).
Concerning the first he does two things:
First, he describes the foundation of this building.
Secondly, its construction or completeness (2:21).
He writes of two foundations: one is primary and another secondary. The Apostles and Prophets are the secondary foundation. In this regard he states that they [the Ephesians] are not strangers but fellow citizens who belong already to the spiritual edifice which is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, that is, upon the teaching of the Apostles and Prophets. Or, upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets means upon Christ who is the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. As though he said: You are built upon the same foundation on which the Apostles and Prophets, who were Jewish, were built.
These two interpretations only differ in words. Yet the first is more suited [to the context]; if the second was the better one there would be no point in adding Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone since he would be the principal foundation. Hence this is more in harmony with the first; although Christ would be both the chief stone and the principal foundation. In meaning, however, they are in no way different since it is the same to say that Christ is the foundation, and the teaching of the Apostles and Prophets is; after all, they proclaimed Christ alone, and not themselves. To accept their doctrine is to accept Christ crucified: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23); and “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). 1 Peter 1 (12) affirms [of the Prophets]: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, in the things which are have been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you.”
Notice that the Apostles are designated as foundations: “O city founded by him on the holy mountains” (Ps 87:1). I will lay your foundations with sapphires” (Is 54:11), that is, with saintly men. In the Apocalypse 21 (14) they are expressly called foundations: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” They are referred to as foundations to the degree that their doctrine proclaims Christ. “Upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18).
Both Apostles and Prophets are alluded to so that he might indicate that the doctrine of both is necessary for salvation. “Therefore, every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings forth out of his treasure new things and old” (Mt 13:52). Also, that he might show the harmony between the two, of the one with the other, since there is an identical foundation to both. What the Prophets foretold was to come, the Apostles proclaimed as accomplished. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he had promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son” (Rom 1: 1-3).
Christ Jesus alone is the principal foundation, in reference to this he says himself being the chief cornerstone. Here he states three things about him; he is a stone, is placed at the corner, and is the chief one.
He is a stone on account of the strength of the foundation. Whence Matthew 7 (25) speaks of the house founded on a rock and built solidly; neither rains, nor floods, nor winds could destroy it. Such was not the case with the house built on sand. “You saw a stone cut out of the mountain without a hand being put to it” (Dan. 2:45). He is called a comer-stone on account of the convergence of both [Jews and Gentiles]. As two walls are joined at the comer, so in Christ the Jewish and Pagan peoples are united. “The stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone” (Ps 118:22): “This is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which became the cornerstone. And there salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:11-12). And Christ applies this text to himself in Matthew 21 (42): “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?” He is referred to as the chief one by reason of his heavenly dignity: “See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a cornerstone, a precious stone, a foundation stone” (Is 28:16).
The foundation of a spiritual edifice contrasts with that of a material building. For a material building rests on a foundation in the earth, the more important the foundation is, the deeper must it be. A spiritual structure, on the other hand, has its foundation in heaven; as a result, the more principal the foundation, the higher it necessarily Is Thus we could imagine a city, as it were, coming down from heaven with its foundation in heaven and the building itself appearing to come downward towards us below, according to that passage of the Apocalypse 21 (2): 1 John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”
Next (v. 21), he treats of the building’s construction. In erecting any building four stages are requisite. First is the foundation of the edifice, second is the construction, third its increase, and fourth is the completion. He briefly touches on these.
In saying in whom he designates the foundation which principally is Christ and secondarily the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets: “For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 3:11). He discusses the second briefly in all the building being framed together. Understood allegorically, this signifies the Church herself which is built up when men are converted to the faith. Taken morally it signifies a sanctified soul, and then this building is erected when good works are built upon Christ. “Lady wisdom builds her house” (Prov. 14: 1); ‘Let each man take care how he builds on it” (1 Cor 3:10). With Christ as foundation, every spiritual edifice—whether of the Jews or of the Gentiles—is constructed by God’s power. “If Yahweh does not build the palace, in vain do its builders work on it.” (Ps 127:1). “Every house is built by someone; but the builder of all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). Yet the building is constructed instrumentally either by the man who builds up himself, or by prelates.
He touches on the third when he states grows up into an holy temple; this happens when the number of those saved increases. “The word of the Lord continued to spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7). It also grows when a man makes progress in good works, and he grows in grace to the degree that he becomes a holy temple. A temple is the dwelling plate of God and must be holy: “The Most High sanctifies his dwelling.” (Ps 46:5). Since we should be inhabited by God, that he might live in us, we ought to prepare ourselves in order to be holy. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). “See God’s dwelling is with men, and he will dwell with them” (Rev 21:3).
But are we not temples of God from the instant we possess charity? I reply that it is so. And the more we progress, so much the more will God dwell within us. Hence, the fourth requisite to this building is its perfection and completion, which he states to be in the Lord.
Finally (v. 22), he indicates how the Gentiles have become participants of the building. In which building not only are the Jews incorporated, but also you Ephesians are built together, that is, you are incorporated like the others. “Come to him, the living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and honored by God. Be yourselves like living stones built into a spiritual house” (1 Pet 2:4-5). Therefore he adds into an habitation of God that God may dwell in you through faith. “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts” (Eph 3:17). Yet this cannot happen without charity since “he who remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). And charity is bestowed on us through the Holy Spirit: “The love of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Rom 5:5). Thus he adds in the Spirit.