Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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EPHESIANS - Chapter 1

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Ephesians 1

Supplemental Commentary:

Introduction  1, 1-14

1, 1 f:  Greeting.    1.  At Ephesus.  While not writing exclusively for the church at Ephesus (see Introduction) St. Paul had it specially in mind.  Tychicus, the bearer of this Epistle as well as that to Colossae, would on his journey from Rome to Colossae land at Ephesus and the Ephesians would be the first to read what was in all probability a circular letter.

1, 3-6:  The Eternal Plan of the Father.  The passage in 3-14 forms one long sentence in the original---a rhapsody on God's blessings to Christians.    3.  Blessing on high: "on high" in this text means literally "in heavenly places" and might be translated "in heaven."  Heaven is always  imagined as above the earth.  The Father has poured down upon us His heavenly blessings.  In 4, 8 Christ is pictured ascending to heaven and sending down gifts for men.  The blessings here spoken of are holiness and the adoption of sons.  On this adoption see Gal. 4, 6 f, where St. Paul distinguishes those who are sons by adoption from Him who is God's real Son, such by His essence.  It is in the real Son of God that we are called.  The expressions "in Christ" and "in the Spirit" are brief summaries of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ which is the principal topic of the Epistle.  We are in Christ as we are in the atmosphere which surrounds and sustains us; His action upon us is like that of the soul upon our body: "It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2, 20).  The Father having in mind this intimate union, predestines us from all eternity to become His sons.    6.  Unto the praise of the glory: God who is infinite perfection cannot act for any other end than His own glory.  His goodness to us, as  manifested by His grace, contributes to His glory.

1, 7-10:  Realized in the Son.    7.  We have redemption through his blood.  Redemption means buying back.  When one buys back a slave and gives him liberty one is said to redeem him.  Now men were in slavery to sin, which in Rom. 6 is pictured as a tyrant.  By His loving sacrifice of Himself on the cross, Christ expiated for our sins as a victim of propitiation.  For this loving sacrifice we should be grateful not only to the Son but also to the Father "who so loved the world as to send His only begotten Son into the world, " not to condemn the world but to save it by the Cross: cf. John 3, 14-17.  In this supreme manifestation of divine love, justice and charity meet.    8 f.  To enable us to appreciate God's blessings we have the gift of wisdom.  It makes us understand the mystery of God's will according to his good pleasure.  St. Paul here as elsewhere emphasizes that grace is given us through the free choice of the Father.  The mystery is a truth hitherto hidden but now revealed: the call of all men to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles.  He says this first in the rather obscure words of 10, about the Father's plan to re-establish all things in Christ.  The Greek seems to mean "to reunite all things in Christ."  Men are reconciled to their heavenly Father in Christ; angels are reconciled with men.  Even inanimate beings share in this reconciliation.  St. Paul probably thinks, too, of the union of man with man, of church with church.

1, 11-14:  Fulfilled through the Holy Spirit.    12.  We who before hoped in Christ refers to Jewish Christians, such as St. Paul himself, who were prepared for the coming of Christ, who hoped in Him.  You too: Jews who have believed in the gospel.    13.  When they believed, Christians were sealed with the Holy Spirit.  The present possession of the Holy Spirit marks those who will belong to God in the future; it is a pledge of their inheritance of the blessedness of heaven.  A pledge or earnest is the first payment, guaranteeing full possession of our inheritance.  It will be ours on the last day, the day of full redemption, when our soul and body shall be redeemed: cf. Rom. 8, 23.  The gift of grace is followed according to God's will by that of heavenly glory; and although those who have received grace are not confirmed therein and may, through their own fault, fall away from Him who is the source of our life, our present grace gives us well-grounded assurance.  We are saved in hope.  We have only to let ourselves live.  That the Apostle considers us free under the action of grace would be evident from the very fact that he constantly urges us to walk worthy of the vocation unto which we are called.

I.  DOCTRINAL  1, 15 -- 3, 21

1.  The Church Is One with Christ  1, 15 -- 2, 22

1, 15-23:  Thanksgiving and Prayer.  St. Paul thanks God for the faith and love of the recipients of his Epistle, of which he has heard; and prays that they may come to a greater realization of God's benefits, the glories He has in reserve for Christians and the greatness of His power exerted for the benefit of those who believe, as it was exerted in the resurrection of Christ, whom He has made to sit on His right hand.  He has given him as head, above all, to the Church, which is His body.    23.  This body is the fullness of him who is wholly fulfilled in all.  The expression is obscure.  Father Huby, S.J., (in Verbum Salutis ad 1.) translates: "The Church which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way."  Father Prat, S.J. (Theology of St. Paul, 8th ed., p. 363) renders the passage: "God has given Christ as an incomparable leader to the Church, which is His body, the complement of Him who completes himself entirely in all (His members)."  This is clearer but it does not take sufficient account of the meaning which the word rendered fullness has elsewhere; and moreover it sounds strange that Christ should be said to need a complement, however the idea be explained.  Further Lemonnyer, O.P., (in his translation and commentary of St. Paul's Epistles, ad 1.) is a little clearer when he translates, "He has placed everything under His feet and made Him head of the whole Church which is His body, the complement of Him who perfects all in all."

Head of the Church, Christ is the source of all the graces which develop life in her and she assimilates with herself the members given her by faith and Baptism.

Confraternity Bible:

Greeting  1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to all the saints who are at Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 grace be to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Eternal Plan of the Father  3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on high in Christ.  4 Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love.  5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will, 6 unto the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he has favored us in his beloved Son.

Realized in the Son  7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace.  8 This grace has abounded beyond measure in us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 so that he may make known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure.  And this his good pleasure he purposed in him 10 to be dispensed in the fullness of the times: to re-establish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth.

Fulfilled through the Holy Spirit  11 In him, I say, in whom we also have been called by a special choice, having been predestined in the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 to contribute to the praise of his glory---we who before hoped in Christ.  13 And in him you too, when you had heard the word of truth, the good news of your salvation, and believed in it, were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, 14 who is the pledge of our inheritance, for a redemption of possession, for the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer  15 Wherefore I on my part, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and of your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in deep knowledge of  him: 18 the eyes of your mind being enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 and what the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe.

Its measure is the working of his mighty power, 20 which he has wrought in Christ in raising him from the dead, and setting him at his right hand in heaven 21* above every Principality and Power and Virtue and Domination---in short, above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.  22 And all things he made subject under his feet, and him he gave as head over all the Church, 23 which indeed is his body, the completion of him who fills all with all.


21: Principality, etc.: a classification of the angels.